Buddhism, Meditation, and the Sounds of Silence

Words can do damage. We all know that instinctively. And silence never hurt anyone. We know that, too. So,  I would almost like to make this the Fifth Noble Truth, but I guess it’s too late for that, haha. It’s true, though, and I think the practice of meditation intuited this from the get-go, whether it was ever fully articulated or not, until recently. Because we now know about the language overload and barrage that we are subjected to every day, when such a thing might not have been so obvious two thousand years ago.

But that’s the first thing that the neuroscience researchers asked me, when they interviewed me as a possible test subject for their research on meditation. “Can you stop the internal dialogue?” Hehe, that’s the whole point, IMHO. “Do you know what I’m talking about?” They asked again to make certain I understood. Yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about. And that’s really the only thing that stands out from the entire series of ‘Don Juan’ books written by Carlos Castaneda, in which the shaman Don Juan constantly implores the student to stop that same dialogue, among other things.

But some people are sensitive to that, at least in sudden form, so it should not be forced. And that’s because we think in a language, or two. There is some debate about whether we thought before we had language, and I believe we did, but once we got it, there’s no turning it off, except deliberately. Otherwise it just goes on and on, seemingly endlessly, until death do us part. And yes, this is likely the origin and mainstay of the ‘duality’ that is such a popular topic in New-Agey forums, whether anyone knows what it means or not. That voice in the background must be the Self or Other, one or the other.

But there is a social context, also, in which the air waves we all share are simply bombarding us with sound constantly. And if Autoplay on Internet is the worst offender, well, the bar down the street is not much better, nor are the loud-mouthed Americans down the hall at my bare-budget residencia  in Coimbra. Silence is no longer normal. And it should be. How can I quiet the voices in my head, when I can’t quiet the voices all around me? That’s what meditation is for, silent meditation, no app necessary…