Yesterday’s sohbet (dialogue) at Jerrahi Mosque was about silence. I was listening with full attention, as this is a hard lesson for me, and one I keep failing at! As our Sufi teacher said, the tongue is a powerful instrument that we have, but it comes with many responsibilities. We should use it carefully. Sometimes we think we are adding positivity, but even then we may unintentionally do damage.
For us to silence our tongue (or writing pen, or text, or email), we must silence our inner noise. The inner noise is the ego judging and analyzing and evaluating everything. It is extremely hard to practice, for the ego has an opinion about everything. But silencing the inner noise helps open the soul to experience the sublime and divine, and just being present without saying can say volumes sometimes. Some people call it presence, and there are many stories of Sufi saints who communicated at such an extraordinary level without sound or speech. It sounds bizarre for those of us in modern times who are constantly improving our communications skills! I used to teach intercultural communications at pharmaceutical companies. And the most unusual lesson for most Westerners was the role of silence in some Eastern cultures, e.g., Japanese. For example, in a team meeting, Japanese team members may listen and stay silent to consider what was said which is a form of respect; however, other cultures may require immediate response or even encourage interruption which actually leads to poor listening and hence less connection with the whole.
How do we silence the inner noise? Some people try meditation, or zikr(remembrance of the Divine), or mantras. I discovered that daily journals bring out the noise onto paper, and hopefully empty the mind for more creative and positive thoughts. Sometimes when I look back at my old journals I am appalled at the whiny, victim nature of my entries. When it is written down in black and white, you see yourself in the mirror and begin the shift from ego to soul. That is the Sufi journey, which I am glad to have begun formally. There are stations that you seek, and the first station is of tawba (repentance). This is where you take responsibility for everything and eliminate blaming others from your thoughts and actions, and indeed take on full responsibility for any blame.
The most profound insight I had last night is that while we think we should speak to connect with others, a powerful presence requires no speech, and is all about a state of being. What a beautiful goal to continue to pursue!