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The art of listening

There is an old story about two women walking down the street. They ran into another woman. One of the women engaged in conversation with the third woman for a full 10 minutes. The third woman listened while the first woman did all the talking.

india Updated: May 11, 2011 01:52 IST
Sudesh Sehgal

There is an old story about two women walking down the street. They ran into another woman. One of the women engaged in conversation with the third woman for a full 10 minutes. The third woman listened while the first woman did all the talking.

When they finally parted, the second woman exclaimed to the first: "That's one of the brilliant women I have ever met." "But", protested the first women, "She hardly said a word." "I know", said the second woman, "but she listened to your thoughts attentively which showed she was in inner silence and in full control of herself."

The point is that, many a time, silence is a better way of communicating our presence. There is a famous saying: "For words divide and rend; but silence is most noble till the end." By talking too much, we may fall into a wrathful state at the slightest provocation, thus exposing ourselves to anger and hatred which may multiply, and even may become our habit over a period of time.

Each one of us embodies a unique reality of maintaining our inner calm in times of shifting moods. Once we have cultivated this habit, then we neither tie ourselves to conditioned responses, nor fall prey to negative emotional outbursts. And then one lives in total bliss.

One essential way to feel restful always is not to engage in inner talking. Inner silence is a rich resource of spiritual energy that helps us live in healthy emotion. No matter where we may go, to the mountains, to the depths of forests, or to an ashram, we take our minds with us.

Until we learn to live in inner silence, the move is only of the body, which may not be of much help.

I believe that even meditation is not only a ritual of sitting passively; it is a vibrant discipline of living in inner silence all the time.

Essentially it means maintaining a balance between idle talking and staying in spiritual silence.