In the silence, in the stillness, in the deep stillness of the heart we can find God. This is the foundation of nada yoga. Nada yoga has this philosophical aspect to its teachings and practice. It asks us to listen to that voice sounding deep within silence and to follow our conscience, or the voice of our higher Self, that is one with all.
In order to facilitate our ability to attune with those inner sounds we need to come closer to an understanding of silence or what Hazrat Inayat Khan describes the silences and by this Khan is referring to the fact that silence is not simply a negative but a space imbued with it’s own characteristics. Silence is a canvas on which the world of sound is drawn and while there is no such thing as pure silence, in the same way that completely empty space is impossible, it is something that can be achieved as a state of mind. By reaching a state of the silent mind we achieve clarity of perception. This “beginners mind” is a mind is able to remove judgment.
The first stage of Sound Yoga is to engage with silence – to explore the space around the sound – a little like the quote attributed to the French composer Claude Debussy who said that music is “the space between the notes”. By harnessing our relationship with silence and to some extent re-find sound we are able to sensitise both to our physical environment and ourselves. To quote George Leonard in his book The Silent Pulse “meditation is a means for us to become more sensitive to our inner vibrations and rhythms. It nay also be a means to facilitate entrainment, to train our vibrations so that we are more ‘in sync ‘ with our world and the people around us”
Silence during Yoga practice creates space for engagement with the most primal of rhythms: the breath, we can experience the breath as vibration in our body and as a sound to our ears. By following the breath and even controlling it through pranayama we can start to master our emotions and by mastering emotions we are able to master the other fundamental body rhythm – the heartbeat. Both of these rhythms offer us a feedback mechanism for understanding our emotional and mental state, they also are individual rhythms that will entrain easily both to others and to external sounds.
This element of space is associated with the Vishuddhi or throat chakra and the lotus of this chakra has 16 petals, which are said to represent the number of vowels in the Sanskrit alphabet, therefore in the Vedic system the throat is both space and the source for all sounds. The throat is, of course, the point of vocalisation and the breath becomes an expression of an individual’s Prana in the form of the voice – in this way it can be seen as the barometer for the human soul. The energy of vocalised sound becomes manifest in the use of mantra (translation “mind crossing”) – repetitive use of sound to evoke emotional states. The use of mantra chanting within a group is a very immediate way in which to induce harmony or understanding.