The mind dislikes silence because it is boundless, amorphous and indefinite, but it likes sounds because they are, like thoughts, finite, measurable, manageable. The mind shuns silence; for, to the ego, silence is the "sound" of death.
Yet silence is the natural state of things. Sounds are a finite disturbance of the Way things are, and noise--well, the word "noise" comes from the Latin nal~sea. Noise is sound that is so disturbing that it makes us sick! Constant chatter of mind and mouth is nauseating, and it depletes the Qi.
Hence, silence is one of the ways we conserve and re-store within the power needed for self-healing and rejuvenation. Beyond that, if you want to experience the Tao, you have to invite infinity into your way of life, and there is no better way than to embody silence. As the Old Master wrote, "to be sparing of speech is natural," and "those who speak, do not know." When you master non-speaking, and "speaking without speaking," then you will ~e the Way.
Guided and inspired by Stuart Wilde, author of Silent Power (Hay House, 1996), I have gathered from the Tao Te Ching nine Ways of cultivating Infinite Power through silence, non speaking, and "speaking without speaking." Much of what I say is but an echo of Wilde's Silent Power, so I don't take much credit for it.
Nine Ways of Keeping Quiet
In what follows, I have quoted or paraphrased passages from the Tac) Te Ching, and I have marked them with a number, but I have not given the exact reference. I thought that this would challenge you to consult the Old Master's work. I use the translation by Victor H. Mair (Bantam, 1990), which is based on the silk Ma-Wang-Tui manuscripts, which are thought to be at least 500 years older than any others.
1. Value your words ( 1). Every word that you speak is a bit of your Qi, your personal power. If you want to be powerful, you have conserve your Qi by putting a premium value on your words.
This means that you will not speak unless you are asked to do so, and/or you absolutely have to do it. Then, you will think carefully about what you are about to say, be brief and get to the point. Also, you will deliver your words with skill (2), so that no energy is wasted. Your words will then be like thunder, rather than drivel.
Further, if you want to make your words have value, you have to keep your word when you give it. That means that you won't make promises to others, or to yourself, that you won't keep. You won't say you are going to do something unless you are totally committed to doing it.
Finally, you won't use words that project images that you don't want to manifest. For example, if you understand the value and power of words, then you will not indulge in moaning, complaining, or projecting negativity. If you don't have anything pleasant and uplifting to say, then you won't say anything.
2. Be a mirror--listen and reflect. The Universe is like a mirror. It unconditionally accepts your thoughts, feelings, speech, and actions, and it reflects them back to you in the form of the circumstances of your life. If you identify with success, you get success; if you identify with failure, you get failure (3). Thus, your life circumstances are simply external manifestations of the content of your internal chatter.
To be like the Universe in your daily life, when you are spoken to, listen carefully, and, rather than reacting to what you hear by asserting your opinions or emotions, simply and unemotionally reflect back the words you hear back to the speaker. For example, if someone says to you "I think that you are a rat," you say, in return, "So, it sounds like you think that I am a rat. Is that right?". Practice being an unemotional mirror.
In this way, though you are speaking, your mind is remaining silent, because you aren't giving your opinion or reaction. Instead, you're helping the other person to get into a conversation with himself! That's the way of the sage--he doesn't have a mind of his own; he considers the mind of the common person to be his mind (4).
3. Be vague and uncertain (5). This is part of being amorphous and silent, as well as truthful. If you make definite statements and speak with certainty, you are saying something. However, if you are vague and uncertain, then you aren't really saying anything; you are non speaking. Yet you are much closer to the truth than if you were to be searchingly exact.
Since the Tao is infinite, it is indefinite. There is nothing that you can say about it that is definite and certain. Hence, when you are vague and uncertain, you are close to the truth of things. On the other hand, when you are exact and certain, you are pretending to know something that you really don't know.
Hence, we can say "Falsehood seems like truth, and Great Truth seems like falsehood."(6)
4. Do not reveal, assert, or praise yourself (7). When you reveal, assert, or praise yourself, you are makin~ yourself stand out in the open, on the tips of your toes; and when you are strainin~ to stand out, you are vulnerable and easily cut down. Also, you become a hosta~e of the ima~e you project; people will expect you to be forevermore exactly what you said you were.
If you keep quiet about the events and details of your life, you keep yourself free of the opinions of others, and you remain invisible, mysterious, unfathomable, indefinite--like the infmite Tao!
5. Do not compete (8)--instead, put yourself below people (9). When you are listening to people, be careful not to put yourself out as more brilliant, more flowery, or more accomplished than others. If someone says "I just ran a marathon," and you say "Interesting, but did you know that I climbed Everest twice this year?", you are competing. A sage does not compete.
Also, if someone asks you something, avoid giving show of your philosophical or spiritual achievements. Instead, ask them questions that will lead them to reflect. Let them answer their own question. If that seems beyond your ability in the situation, then answer in simple terms. Be dull and uncouth. Don't reveal what you know; reveal what you don't know.
Instead of competing, put yourself under people, and, like the Earth, support them. Use words that acknowledge, support, encourage, and lift them up. Let them shine. Again, as long as you don't talk about yourself, or your opinions, your mind is silent, even though you are speaking. This is to speak without speaking!
6. Do not lightly assent ( 10). If you agree to do things easily, or approve of things without thinking them through, or experiencing them properly, you will be embarrassed many times. People don't trust those who say "yes" easily and to everything, because they know that those "yes" men have no substance.
If you are asked to do something, say nothing, or at most, say "Let me get back to you." After you take silent time to reflect on the situation, you can decide. In this way, you declare yourself to be in control. Soon you will trust yourself, and others will trust you, because you are not quick to act without drawing on the silent power of reflection.
If you are asked to give your opinion on something, and you aren't sure, say nothing, or at most say "I don't know." Not knowing is uncomfortable for the ego, which likes to have opinions on everything. However, in reality the ego doesn't know; it only pretends to know. When you are in not knowing, you are uncertain, and that is the Way things are.
7. Don't criticize oriudge. The Tao is impartial and noniudgmental. It does not criticize people. It has infinite compassion. It silently accepts and supports everyone in whatever they choose to do. It does not try to change or "correct" anyone. lt does not know right from wrong, or good from evil.
When you criticize or judge people, you are doing nothing more than expressing your opinion. That is a waste of energy, making noise. It's nauseating. People quickly get sick and tired of being criticized and judged, and people who spend their energy criticizing and judging others will be sick and tired also. Anyway, criticism and judgment are signs of weakness. A strong person can tolerate everything without comment.
Remember, it takes one to know one. Whatever you don't like about others is just a projection of some crooked part of your self. Instead of mentally or verbally harassing people, trying to straighten them out, leave them alone. Let them work out their own problems, and put your energy into your own life. Straighten yourself out.
8. Don 't defend or explain yourself ( I 1). When you defend or explain yourself verbally, you are giving power to the words of others, and declaring yourself to be vulnerable to the attack. If someone says that you are selfish, and you say "No I am not...." then follow with a defense or explanation, then you are in effect saying "I have to change your opinion of me, because your opinion has weight and it controls me."
On the other hand, if you refuse to defend or explain yourself, then you are saying "I don't care what you think of me. Your opinion is just your opinion. You can have it, but it has no control over me. I don't have to change your opinion to keep myself happy." When you do this, the people around you will see that, in your silence, you are immovable.
Further, when they see that you aren't going to try to change theit opinions, they will understand that you accept them as they are. They'll also realize that you aren't going to ask them to defend or explain themselves either. Other people will begin to feel really secure around you, because they will know that you accept them, opinions and all.
9. Trade fast talking for talk fasting. The ego is really into fast talking, but you can go beyond its limits by making talk fasting a regular discipline. Once a week, you can take a whole day to refrain from talking. This is a great exercise for learning to keep yourself inside the infinite Tao, instead of trying to put the infinite into words.
Character and Charisma
As you gradually master non-speaking, your natural character will dominate and eventually replace your artificial personality. You gradually develop charisma, a silent, infinite power. With that power, you will be able to draw to yourself everything that you need to realize your sacred mission in life.
But you have to be careful to keep your ego out of it. The power will be there only as long as the ego remains silent. lf your ego gets involved, and you abuse the power, it will become a poison. You will rot from the inside out at an extraordinary speed. The higher you get, the farther, faster, and harder you can fall.
So, be quiet, cultivate your power, and respect the lives of others--don't put them down, don't push them over, and don't try to change or manipulate them. Conquer yourself, but let everything and everyone else be. As Stuart Wilde says, that's the Sacred Way.