Mouna: Feeding Time for the Spirit

Jignasu Gyandhara, UK

As a child who grew up in a large Afro-Caribbean family with seven children, the probability of sitting in silence at dinner was lower than me winning the lottery. Everyone would talk increasingly loudly so that they could be heard over the clatter of plates and the scraping of chairs.

As a working professional I was once told by a supplier that I did not have to kiss the famous stone at Blarney Castle in Ireland to be able to speak eloquently as I already possessed what is called the 'gift of the gab'.

So the thought of following the practice of mouna upon my arrival in Munger came as somewhat of a relief and a challenging novelty. I did not have to compete for anyone's attention. I could just learn to be.

My relationship to mouna

However, I must say that when I first arrived I was a selective practitioner of mouna. For the first couple of months it was hard work adjusting to the weather, the environment and the people. Mouna just seemed to be there to make the adjustment period extra challenging.

I found it easiest to practise it in the evenings. I had a roommate who was dedicated to this sadhana so it was easier for me than others. Before coming to BYB I had been an avid diary writer so mouna time gave me the creative space to develop a spiritual diary in which I could reflect, laugh or cry about the things that had happened to me during the day. I initially believed that my occasional displays of possessiveness towards mouna would be an infringement of my chosen yama - aparigraha. Upon closer reflection I realized that this possessiveness could become a positive attribute if it involved a process of caring and nurturing for the spirit and not the ego.

For mouna serves as a daily experiential reminder about one of the reasons I am at BYB. Mouna gives you time to be acquainted with your real self. It is an opportunity to see what you are not but may pretend to be. It is not a time of misery but a time to feed the spirit by focusing on those qualities which you may have thought you had but didn't pay much attention to. In the process you become more comfortable with yourself and have a better sense of self, or self-esteem.

I also discovered that mouna seems to be the guardian of the truth. It becomes harder to shake off or deny the actions that I could consider 'minuses' when they emerge unprompted into my conscious mind from the unrelenting truth of silence. My diversionary tactics are somewhat limited here as well. I cannot escape myself by going to the cinema or ringing a friend for a chat.

In normal life it is easy to spend little time with ourselves that I would consider constructive. Most of us have not been taught how to strike a balance between introversion and extroversion, so when you become still and look within people silently start to worry for you!

I even spoke to one visitor who considered the practice of mouna as an infringement of his civil liberties and not as an opportunity to expand awareness of self. I did not jump on my soapbox and protest (I would have done this in the past). I am not the official champion of mouna, but I have willingly talked about my positive experiences and the opportunities provided by mouna to newcomers who find it difficult to practise but want to give it a try.

My attitude towards and practice of mouna continue to evolve, especially since the mouna periods have been extended and certain loopholes closed off. This was not as big a shock to the system as it would have been in my first year at BYB. For I now have a better appreciation of the phrase 'silence is golden'.