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ellen H. Weiland LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker   (Retired)


Mental Health Practice and Consultation

Other Writings . . .

The Pleasure Re-Connection
The Redball of Fire
> On "Entering the Silence"


by ellenHelga Weiland

This paper was first presented at and published in the Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on the Study of Shamanism and Alternatre Modes of Healing.

A number of years ago, I attended a workshop led by Jean Houston. We spent the morning learning about the Hero Journey . Dr. Houston was asking us, on that particular Sunday afternoon, to dance The Journey. The oversized hotel room made into The Odyssey's sphere was divided into pie shaped sections representing the various aspects of the impending expedition.

In undertaking The Journey [from which, by the way, none of us are exempt] one starts at "The Call", moves through "Finding Allies", tricks ones way past the "Guardians of the Gate", gestates in the "Belly of the Whale", is challenged through the "Road of Trials", ecstatically rejoices at receiving "The Gift", takes "Magical Flight" home, again tricks ones way past the "Guardians," returning to share the "Grace" with Community. At least that was the general design of the journey.

A participant in this particular workshop brought an immense and beautiful African drum. That instrument was positioned just past the place of gifting, right in the middle of the territory of Magical Flight. The drum had a deep, deep sound. Its beat and rhythm were hard to miss even over the amplified music.

I danced with ease through the various phases of the journey. When I came to that drum, well, I was en- chanted, en-tranced. I lost awareness of my consciousness and I became the drum's rhythm. My beat and its beat sounded one heart. I fell asleep into that heartbeat. I do not know what awakened me, but suddenly I re-membered my Call. I re-membered just in time to hear Dr. Houston announce the two minute mark to finish.

Falling asleep into the drum was quite a lesson. In my slumber, I strayed from the path, and fell in love with love. As a result of the shift of focus I was failing to complete my Call.

With difficulty I tore myself out of the ecstasy of that heartbeat, that drumbeat, that drum. I struggled to regain my center, to find my path, and to bring my gift to matter.

I raced back across my life and counted how many times I had fallen in love with love and lost my way. I traced how many times I strayed from my journey in the darkness of the long and lonely night.

Loosing ones way may well be the most frequent event in each persons response to their Call. I suspect that we spend more time randomly attaching to almost anything in the twilight of our semi-consciousness than we actually spend traveling our path.

The trick seems to be to reclaim oneself, to reclaim awareness of ones consciousness from life's incessant and multiple diversions. But in the outer and inner noise of modern day life, the hustle and bustle of everyday activity, in the sphere of the 20th century Odyssey, how does one reclaim ones stream of consciousness?

Silence, for me, has been and is the tunnel through which I flow into the extended reality. In silence I suspend the usual inner dialogue and noise, as well as my involvement in external diversions. During this suspension of busywork I re-frequence within "the Source." Silence allows my awakening into consciousness, into awareness of my immersion in, and unification with the universal flow. Silence facilitates the exquisite assimilation of that experience, and my ultimate creative re-organization.

Thinking of Jean's workshop re-minds me of the many weekends and weeks which I have spent in the middle of a cornucopia of learning, of experiencing, of playing with masters who teach me the melodies of their song and the patterns of their dance. How often do I loose my own song, and cavort along paths remote from my own while swimming in the waves of such learning?

I delight in excess, and avail myself to the muchness of life, yet I also yearn to consciously choose the nourishment which I provide for my soul's growth; to note each element as it vibrates my senses into creative activation. I long to sit luxuriantly and to consume one palatable teaching after the other, so slowly, so deliciously, that my senses can distinguish every single essential learning molecule.

But the world, or the workshop does not stop flowing. It evolves rapidly, and I find myself gulping and swallowing whole, and failing to savor the essential character of any of its budding flowers. Often I find myself full, bloated, even suffering psychic indigestion and mental flatulence with no subtle digestive aid in sight. At such times I yearn for silence, and a moment of re-sourcing.

All disciplines with which I am acquainted, invite us to "come to center," "come home," "relax" and "focus". A good number of available techniques simulate silence. Yet when I examine the result closely, I find my surface activity calming, and my sub-conscious dialogues and images still in a turbulent race.

I have tried many suggestions. A single one which has repeatedly allowed me to reclaim myself was offered by my teacher Robert Masters during the Human Capacities Program.

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Dr. Masters calls his process "Entering the Silence." He states:

"It is the aim of many kinds of meditation to empty the mind, to cease the babble and all the noise from the unconscious that comes up into the conscious mind and to empty the mind of words, images and sensations."
"Emptying the mind is a very good thing to do.
If you can empty the mind and keep it empty for a significant period of time, you break up many of the patterns of static and you achieve levels of tranquillity and serenity that it is difficult to achieve any other way. The person's mental and emotional as well as physical health is likely to improve with that kind of meditation practice.

It is very easy to tell people to sit and try to not think, not have images, to empty the mind. But there are very few techniques that are taught for doing it that are adequate at all.

One is able, however to create a situation where one can have the experience of what it really means to be at peace within yourself and to have a mind that is empty of words and images, a mind just totally at rest. The possibility of achieving this rests upon two facts primarily.

One is that it is impossible to think with words without moving the vocal apparatus to some extent. Whenever you think in words there are at least tiny movements that accompany that, that if made larger would result in actual verbal speech.

And in the same way it is impossible to have images without using the muscles of the eye, and having some, at least minuscule eye movements.

Therefore if one is able to relax sufficiently, the vocal apparatus and the visual apparatus, then one will have neither words nor images. And the mind will be empty. There is no quicker way, or easier way to do it."

Robert E. Masters, Ph.D.


Today, in the interest of slowing just for a moment, the psychic ingestive process at this conference, of providing some time for mental digestion and absorption of the abundance of rich material already presented, and allocating some space for assimilation and creative re-frequencing I offer to you my variation of Bob's process. I trust that the experience will give our psychic digestive organs a brief rest, and prepare us for an afternoon and evening of further feasting.

Entering the Silence

To begin, spend some time breathing gently and deeply. Breathe all the way in, and all the way out. Continue this breathing as I speak to you.

Throughout this exercise I ask you to focus only on my instructions. The ability to enter the silence is greatly increased by your ability to focus.

I invite you to honor the bountiful material which has already flowed into your field during this conference. Trust that none of this material will be lost.

Still breathing gently and completely, notice your mental state. Be aware of the thoughts moving about within you, and the nature and quality of those thoughts. Are you thinking in images, in words, or in a combination thereof?

Notice the tension and movement in the muscles of your eyes as they scan any images.

If your thoughts manifest in words be aware of any inner dialogue. Is the dialogue a whisper or a shout? Notice what is occurring in your throat as you hear the words spoken.

"It is impossible to think in words without moving the vocal apparatus to some extent. And in the same way it is impossible to have images without using the muscles of the eyes, and having some, at least minuscule eye movements. Therefore if one is able to relax the vocal apparatus and the visual apparatus sufficiently, then one will have neither words nor images. And the mind will be empty."

Now attend your physical state of being. Are you comfortable, relaxed and at ease?

Shift and move around in your seats just a bit, organizing again your posture.

Come to stillness.

Beginning with your feet, scan your entire body for any physical tensions. Just be aware of any tension and release it as much as possible.

We will proceed, for a shot time, with a progressive relaxation exercise. As I ask you to create tension in various parts of your body, I invite you never to introduce tension to the point of pain. At no time should these movements be painful, that is, pain in excess of what you normally experience.

To Top

Contract the arches and toes of your feet. Hold that tension a moment. Then, direct the arches and toes in sub-vocalizations. Command "Toes release! Arches release!" Relax and let all tension flow from your feet.

Repeat that movement several times.

Notice the tension flowing from your feet.

Now flex and hold tension in your ankles.

Instruct your ankles to release.

Contract the calf muscles. Hold. Release.

With each of the movements I suggest to you, direct the movement with your own sub-vocal instruction.

Flex and hold the tension in your knees.

Knees release and relax.

Continue to breathe gently and deeply.

Contract the muscles in you thighs and hold that tension. Thighs relax and release.

Tighten all the muscles and joints in your legs. Hold. Release.

Now contract the muscles of your buttocks. Hold. Release.

Contract your abdominal and pelvic muscles. Hold that tension. Instruct your muscles to release.

Again contract. Hold. Release.

Contract and hold the muscles in your chest and upper abdomen. Hold. Release.

Contract and hold the muscles in your back. Release.

Contract the muscles in your entire torso. Hold that tension. Instruct your muscles to release.

Flex the joints in your fingers. Hold. Loosen and release.

Tighten your hands. Hold. Release.

Flex your wrists. Hold. Release.

Tighten your arms and elbows. Hold. Release.

In whatever way you can, introduce tension in your shoulders and shoulder blades. Hold that tension. Release.

Now tense your entire body. Hold that tension. Release and relax.

Sense all tension flowing from your body.

Now inhale expanding your lower belly with the breath. Hold that breath for a moment and bounce that pressure from the lower belly into your chest and back into the belly. Just bounce that pocket of air back and forth between your belly and your chest for as long as you comfortably can. Exhale and feel the tension flow from you.

Repeat that process.

Now create some tension in your neck. Hold. Instruct your neck to release.

To the best of your ability tighten the muscles in the back of your head. Hold that tension. Release.

Sequentially tighten and release the muscles of the side of your head; the jaw; the tongue; the lips; and cheeks. And release completely.

Tighten the entire face; the eyes; the ears; and upper head. Hold. Release.

Again tighten the entire body including all the parts of the head. Hold that tension. Instruct all of your muscles and joints to relax and release.

Sense every last bit of tension leaving your body.

Now attend your eyes and eye muscles.

Image a golden eagle flying across a blue sky, dotted with fluffy white clouds. See that eagle circling way over to the left, high above the lake. See the eagle diving into the waters. See it emerging from the water, fish in talons, flying towards the distant cliffs on your right.

Let that image fade.

Image a genie emerging from a bottle. He towers over you. Then see him standing, arms folded, on the magic carpet which is carrying him into the distance out of your view. The carpet and genie return circling in a wide counterclockwise motion around you. He circles wide to your right side, carrying a treasure chest in his arms.

Image that genie opening the treasure chest and showering its precious, rainbow colored gems over the side of his magic carpet. The jewels fall in front of your feet. With your eyes you explore the bounty. Pick up a pearl, and focus into its' shimmering depth.

To Top

Let that image fade.

Image yourself sitting on a hill, seeing below you the very large, oval bicycle track with the colorfully dressed racers peddling round and round at ever increasing speeds. First one racer leads, then another. The fastest of the racers passes the checkered flag, as the crowd cheers.

And let that image go.

Image now a winding road filling your field of vision. From the distance a car drives the roads' hairpin turns in your direction. As it comes closer you recognize the car. It stops not too far from you. Out of the car steps a person whom you casually know. She greets you with a smile.

Notice what your eye muscles do.

Let that image go.

Image a three ring circus with a flying trapeze troop to the left, a juggler to the right, and a highly trained tiger act in the center. Your eyes move rapidly back and forth as you try to catch all of this activity.

The trapeze artist tripple-somersaults through the air then is caught by her partner. While the juggler simultaneously spins numerous plates, one tiger lunges through the ring of fire, then leaps from his platform, and bolts out of the left side of the tent.

Now let that image fade.

Be aware of any areas in which tension is increasing, and give the instruction to release, relax and release. Particularly instruct the entire head, the face, the eyes, the jaw and lips, the tongue and the throat to release all tension.

Now recite, inaudibly, a nursery rhyme which you recall from your childhood. Just recite quietly any familiar childhood rhyme or poem.

Note what occurs in your throat.

Instruct all parts of your body especially the eyes, throat, jaw, and tongue to relax and release. Release also any emotions or ideas you may be holding.

Recall and silently sing to yourself a hymn that you learned as a child.

Again instruct your jaw, tongue, throat, neck, face and eyes to release any tension.

Sing a national anthem or some patriotic song of the country of your birth.

Observe what tensions arise, and instruct all body parts involved to release those tensions.

Now recite or sing some popular poem or song which occurs to you.

Once again scan your body and instruct all body parts in which tension is arising, to release. Release the throat, tongue, jaw, eyes and face.

Come to silence.

You experience no movement, no effort, no tension in the throat, or jaw, or tongue and mouth or eyes or face. You are thinking about nothing, sitting as completely relaxed as possible. If a thought arises either in image or a sub-vocalization, just release the muscles of the eyes, the throat, jaw and tongue.

Observe the emptiness when your eyes do nothing and the throat does nothing and the tongue does nothing. Just remain in that emptiness until I direct you.

Note the quality and content of any images which may arise from time to time. Do not invite or entertain these images. Just let them go. Empty the mind again and again, and keep it as empty and silent as possible for as long as possible.

(If you tape this exercise, offer as much time as is available to remain in the silence. You might want to fast forward the tape for about five or ten minutes, or longer. Then complete the process with the following directions.)

Slowly come back to this room, into this space, this time. I will count backwards from 10 to 1. At the count of 1, your eye lids will lift easily. You will return, relaxed, and refreshed, ready to reenter the dance of this conference.

10, 9, 8, slowly returning, 7, 6, 5, all tensions released, 4, 3, 2, feeling refreshed and relaxed, 1, eyes lids opening easily, you are fully awake and alert, looking around and stretching, sensing colors and shapes and their depth, around this room, seeing your neighbors, fully present, fully alert.

I invite any interested readers to tape this exercise and practice it several times a week for a number of weeks. Prepared tapes are available from the Foundation of Mind Research. I am always interested in hearing about the results of your efforts so feel free to write.