At the University of Waterloo in 1976, I wrote my thesis on what links all of the different forms of meditation, as well as all of the highest forms of psychology. Although I also demonstrated the differences between these practices, I focused especially on what they all have in common, which is a move towards inner silence.
Let me explain why I say “a move towards inner silence.” No neurobiologist worth his or her salt would agree with the idea that you can ever achieve inner silence—unless, of course, you are dead. All you can really do is move into a quieter state of mind. The brain is constantly active, no matter how deeply in meditation or sleep or a coma we happen to be. The term “inner silence” is a nice shorthand that we all understand, but let’s be clear: it’s merely a metaphor.
My university experience occurred before I was very fully aware of the movement of chi, though I was already using heart chakra meditations in my first year of college. I had learned the practice of awaking my heart chakra from a laying on hands, followed by attending a Charismatic Christian church service—which is the movement in which people speak in tongues, praise God, fall on the floor in ecstasy, and other outlandish demonstrations of their holiness.
I was very uncomfortable with the Charismatic’s rejection of biblical scholarship and their embracing of right-wing nut jobs, so I was overjoyed to find an alternative interpretation of the very real experience I had had with them. I found it in a Rosicrucian manual on meditation, which identified the experience I was having as the heart chakra.
From the Charismatic point of view, calling the Holy Spirit a manifestation of the heart chakra was sacrilegious, but I couldn’t stomach their denigrating of women, which to me was equally sacrilegious. I decided to brave Hell fire by embracing the Rosicrucian point of view. Later, my unholy interpretation of the Holy Spirit as the heart chakra was confirmed for me in a sermon by radical theologian Matthew Fox.
I now know that even a correct practice of moving chi is deeply enhanced by inner silence, and furthermore, when you practice moving your chi, such as when you do a heart chakra meditation, it clears the mind of thought. It creates inner silence.
This was the background behind my decision to write a thesis on the psychology of meditation, but then, in the course of my research, I found that the principles that I was discovering in meditation were active and important far beyond the realm of meditation.
Bare attention, which is the heart of all Buddhist meditation, is based on turning off the evaluating mind to be present and aware—which is a form of inner silence. Repeating a mantra or focusing on the breath leads to a lowering of the physiological components of thought as you go deeper and deeper—and that is a move toward inner silence. I found similar practices in Christianity, including the practice of the Rosary or the medieval monks who would sit in their monastic cells and repeat the mantra “Lord, have mercy on our souls,” over and over and over, a practice that was similar to many Eastern meditation methods.
On a more mundane level, beyond meditation, hypnosis involves turning off the evaluating mind so that suggestions can enter the subconscious. When a Freudian patient achieves a breakthrough, there is a moment of crystal clear emptiness when they spontaneously become present at an almost Buddhist level.
Artists work with deep focus and then go on a walk, during which time they let go of everything and allow the incubation period to move deep within. This is also a move toward inner silence. And then there’s the runner’s high, and the sports practices of the top athletes, who were practicing things that could have been taught in a monastery.
In my search (then and since then), I also inquired into the nature of setting aside thoughts, whether in meditation, to enter trance, the Sedona method, or to build the psychic faculties (which require setting aside one’s preconceived notions so that you only tune into what you actually sense). When you set a thought aside, you’re letting go of a specific mental energy pattern, and when you do this repeatedly in meditation—or in any other context—the overall energy level in your mind reduces more and more—which we experience as inner silence.
Inner silence is the key to all of the highest practices of the mind. This is also why both Hindu yoga practice and Tibetan Buddhism understand that the siddhis arise only after one is able to sustain the deep absorption of samadhi.
Siddhis are the psychic powers that monks from many different traditions develop after years of meditation practice. They are predictable and measurable in scientific labs.
(The existence psychic phenomena and siddhis is debated by professional skeptics, also known as rationalists. These people have the arrogance to set themselves up against the experiences of the entire human race, as well as all of the research that supports psi experience as a real phenomena. Because of their egos and their religious proselytizing of their preconceived and rigid dogmas, rationalists have given up their moral authority to be considered experts outside of their narrow-minded little cliques.)
In my explorations, I also noticed that there were certain practices that led to an experience of group mind. Quaker Meetings are a Christian offshoot that hold to a practice of an hour of silence in a group, and every fourth meeting or so, the sense of group mind is so powerful that Quakers identify it as a “gathered meeting.” In a gathered meeting, you might be surprised when in the middle of the meeting, someone stands up and speaks directly into your contemplation—and into the contemplations of everyone there—because the contemplation of each person has moved into resonance with the thoughts of the others in the room.
It is from this study and understanding that I created practices that rely on inner silence. The most profound of these is the Chrysalis, which we practice in our groups every week. Some of our solitary explorations are listed on the page Wisdom Tool Apps that Are Already Available.
No, the Joyful Wisdom practices won’t go to the level of deep absorption that you might reach by focusing on the breath passing in and out through your nostrils. But the Chrysalis employs the practice of letting go to achieve inner silence after each person speaks, and the apps require the same letting go after diving into a troubling issue in your life.
These practices can be more disciplined than traditional meditation in some ways—though they do not take away the importance of the more traditional forms of meditation. Furthermore, we promise no siddhis, other than the group mind that we experience after the practice of a Chrysalis.
Our practices are applied inner silence—which is to say that we bring inner silence into the difficulties and challenges of human interaction and daily worries. In doing this, we echo the teachings of meditation masters from every practice from around the world—teachings that focus on bringing your practice into everyday life.
The old practices invite making a regular discipline of meditation that you do every day, and the result is a reduction of mental anxiety about everything you face over time. They also promise siddhis when practiced regularly. I wish I could do them more often.
But in our groups, we practice letting go of any mental anxiety we have after each person speaks, including ourselves.
This is why Chrysalises lead eventually to a sense of group mind. And group mind is a very mild experience of psychic phenomena. It is a type of siddhi.
That’s not nothing.