Coming from a Hindu family, I’ve always been in and out of food fasting rituals. And I have to admit that I first gained a sense of the power of silence doing something unrelated to my culture. While watching Julia Robert’s Love, Prey, Eat! But only recently was I influenced by my sister-in-law to actually try it out for myself. And from that, comes this post for you.
What is a Maun Vrat?
Maun, means silence, and Vrat means fasting. This is the literal meaning – to keep a vow of silence.
This entails completely unplugging and retracting from the world, to go inwards.
It is similar to meditation, but is not limited to closing your eyes for the whole period. Based on how you choose to execute this vow, you can add many self-reflecting aspects to your practice. I’ll be talking more about that in upcoming sections.
The idea of observing silence is ancient, and continues to be practiced by different groups around the world. But what is the purpose?
Let’s first talk about the benefit of any kind of fasting or vows.
When we practice conscious self-restraint, we begin to understand how dependent we are on the external. So, for example, when you do a food fast, here are a couple of observations you might make.
- You eat way more than you need to.
- Sometimes, you mindlessly pick up snacks or go to the fridge to clear a can.
- A lot of your time is spent in thinking about food, eating food, preparing food, etc.
- When you don’t eat, it becomes easier for you to get emotionally triggered and be short-tempered.
- If you fast long enough, once you do eat, you eat more mindfully and you end up eating less.
In the past couple of centuries, fasting had become about pleasing God and getting your wishes to come true. As Conversations with God shows us, that isn’t needed. God isn’t conditional in his love.
And in the new age, food fasting is often promoted as a good detox for the body. That is only a partial benefit of it. However, there’s a much deeper psychological change that unfolds when you stick to the practice. I’ll probably save that topic for another post.
But the same hols true for a maun vrat. You only experience the power of silence, once you put it into practice for hours at a stretch. So let’s talk in more detail about what happens, and what to expect.
The Four Stages of a Maun Vrat & the Benefits of Observing Silence
First, let’s walk through the different stages of observing silence, and the benefits you reap as you pass through each stage.
Stage 1: Getting Started
Getting started with the maun vrat is as easy as dropping everything you’re doing and just sitting still, in silence. You may or may not choose to start with meditation. When getting started, it can help you to focus on the breath, or on just observing your environment.
In the first couple minutes of silence, you might find yourself scrambling to sit quietly and just ‘be’. It might even drive you crazy to realize how many thoughts are coming and going. You might find yourself reaching out to grab an object around you, or scratch a phantom itch on your body.
If you’ve been a meditator for a while, it could in contrast be easier. Either way, overtime, your body will get acclimatized and want to move less.
As you notice your energy slowing down and settling in, the first benefit unveils itself. You are beginning to calm down at a physical level. And your inner ‘fidget spinner’ is beginning to slow down.
If you persevere from a few minutes of doing nothing, into around the half-hour mark, you’re likely to enter stage 2.
Stage 2: Lethargy
Eventually, as you keep observing silence, you may find the slumber phase arising. Your physical body is slowing down, and your heartbeat is as well. So, the mind may get a cue to shut down the conscious and take a nap.
One of two things can happen. You will either fall asleep and wake up afresh, probably putting you back into stage 1.
Or, you will redirect this cue, and use it to enter a state of self-guided meditation (called self-hypnosis) and introspection.
As that happens, you will enter stage 3.
Stage 3: Going Deep
This is the best part of observing silence, when you start making breakthroughs! I have a couple of tips lined up in the next section to help get you here faster. And once you do, here’s what to expect.
This is the perfect time to reflect on one’s karmic programming, to reflect on the different patterns that have led you here in life. It also becomes interesting to observe your body and the environment, purely from the angle of an observer.
You may find yourself rolling your neck and involuntary yawning as the body resist’s stage 2’s lethargy. In contrast, your mind may be racing with a different kind of energy – like bringing new insights to you to help you clean your actions.
As you go deeper into self-introspection, it can be helpful to keep a notebook nearby and take quick notes (not necessarily writing paragraphs) about your AHA moments.
In recent silence periods, I’ve added certain dots up about my behavior that have left me humbled and bringing back my focus on self-development versus finding fault in others.
Stage 4: Coming full circle.
You may waiver between the first three stages throughout the period of silence, which is pretty normal. Eventually, when you’ve reached your time capacity, bring your practice to a full circle.
Without sounding too ritualistic, it is still important to maintain a decorum as you slowly come out of your silent period.
Instead of jumping to check your phone or calling a friend to talk about how awesome the silence was, try to extend the silence into day-to-day activities.
Some tips include –
- going for quiet walks, without music or a friend,
- eating a mindful meal and not watching the TV,
- cleaning up your space and giving thanks to the surroundings for facilitating your quietude.
Allow yourself to carry that calmness into your day for as long as you can. That would be the truest test and also the biggest ripple effect of the power of silence!
5 Tips to Deepen Your Experience of the Power of Silence
#1 – Reduce Distractions.
It goes without saying that you should NOT have a phone ringing near you, nor should you be using Facebook. However, distraction can also come from the inanimate objects around you.
I use my workspace to practice my quietude, and initially found myself wanting to pick up a book to read, or to write down a task that I would do for the blog once this period of silence was over.
The mind will do everything it can to escape the present moment. Keep observing the ways in which it gets distracted and start eliminating those distractions.
At the end of each maun vrat, I have made it a point to write down the answer to this question – what distracted me today?
Being clutter-free, tech-free and sound-free would be a great starting point.
#2 – Have a broad plan of execution.
Initially, I had no plan of what I would be doing for my first maun vrat. I spent nearly 6 hours trying to do nothing, and found myself getting extremely bored. Ofcourse, being aware of this boredom was a part of self-awareness, but it was tough to do for so many hours.
Answer some of these questions before you observe silence.
- Where would you be practicing this so that you’re not distracted? Assign yourself a quiet space, and don’t be shy in letting people around you know that you will be unavailable. You don’t want to end up using sign-language to communicate, which too is besides the point!
- How many hours can you genuinely commit to? I wouldn’t start with 6 hours, like I did. Currently, the 3 hour works best for me. Try something short at first, like 45 minutes or an hour, and slowly build momentum.
- What are the rules for this period? For instance, some people keep reading spiritual books as an open option in their maun vrat, to inspire concentrated thoughts of self-awareness. However, personally, I go cold turkey and have omitted all sources of input for my period (laptop/tv, books, social media).
- What are some questions you’d like to reflect on? I started by writing down some questions in advance, and at later stages found questions arising from the reflections I was doing. I’ve put together some of these questions into a digital workbook to help you with your inner reflection.
- How often would you like to do this? This is a question you’d ask once you’ve done your first maun vrat. Can you take out time every week? Or just once a month? If you’re planning shorter durations, you can even scatter different activities on different days and practice 15-30 minutes of quietude everyday.
#3 – Have mindful activities planned.
Like I said in the previous tip, you can decide what the rules will be for you. I chose to isolate myself and not move around, but you can incorporate a mindful walk (without music) into your routine.
Evaluate the activities that will keep you awake, and practice them during periods where you notice the lethargy kicking in.
I personally love journaling, and really made the most out of this period by filling up sheets and sheets of self-reflecting questions!
#4 – Quiet the mind and body.
These are some of the tips I was talking about in stage 3, that will help you go deeper into your practice.
- Try to do a physical activity like a jog or household chores before your quiet time, so that you can exhaust some of the physical energy and actually rest during the silence.
- Get tasks out of the way, or manage your responsibilities beforehand too, to ease the mind.
- Instead of just doing one long meditation, you can divide your maun vrat into several different meditations, journaling periods and walks.
I teach people how to ease their way into meditation, and the same tips would apply here as well. You can get in touch if you’d like to advance your learning.
#5 – End Gracefully
I remember when I first used to do food fasts, I would pig out when I opened the fast. This put my body in shock and I would experience extreme lethargy after that. To the same effect, you don’t want to disrupt your stillness by doing something overly engaging right away.
Here are some ways to gracefully end the period of silence –
- ending the quietude with a prayer that you sing aloud,
- chanting for the last few minutes of your silence,
- offer a prayer or blessing, sending out your Love & Light to the planet,
- humming positive songs for the first few minutes of regular life,
- reading a scripture or page from a spiritual book aloud.
The whole idea is to sustain the energy created in silence and carry it into the rest of the day.
A silent vow, or maun vrat, when done right can be just as powerful as meditation. Infact deeper. It is a blend of mindfulness and meditation, giving you the luxury to be self-aware without necessarily sitting still the whole period or keeping your eyes closed.
As you practice hours of quietude, note down the power of silence in your life. And do let me know how it goes, in the comments below!
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