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ellen H. Weiland LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Recall and silently sing to yourself a hymn that you learned as a
Again instruct your jaw, tongue, throat, neck, face and eyes to release
Sing a national anthem or some patriotic song of the country of your
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.