Every winter for a solid week my husband and I travel West (this year Snowmass/Aspen, CO) for our annual ski trip. The thing is I don’t ski anymore. I get many looks and shocking responses when I tell people this. People further probe “don’t you get bored?” or “what do you do all week?”
Honestly it’s the perfect vacation. Trading the hustle & bustle of the Washington, DC area for the beauty of the snow-covered mountains and fresh crisp air is a welcomed change. I unplug about 90% of the time (no cell, no laptop) and enjoy the quiet of the day as my husband is off skiing. I step onto my yoga mat daily and practice without the interruption of someone knocking at the door, my dogs getting in the way or feeling rushed through practice because I need to be somewhere (i.e. teach a yoga class). In addition to yoga, I read more than I can at home (sitting next to a cozy fire), hit the gym and go for a couple of hikes in the snow by myself in silence. For a full week it’s as if I’m hiding out. I have nowhere to be. I have no one to talk to until my husband returns. I have no one expecting anything of me.
What I’ve discovered is when I can be verbally quiet and move at my own pace for a few hours almost daily, its way easier to turn inward and access a level of peace from deep within. This experience is unlike anything I seem to be able to find when I’m back at home and driven by a schedule of “to do’s” and yoga classes to teach. It’s as if the silence in itself becomes the true vacation.
So it was within the silence of my vacation I was reminded that actually a component of yoga, as described in the Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras, is mouna. Mouna is Sanskrit for silence. As explained in Swami Satchidananda’s commentary of sutra 1.49:
“Mouna vakya Prakratitha Parabrahma tattvam.” “The Parabrahma tattvam, or unmanifested supreme principle, can only be explained by silence, not by words.” In not only the physical silence, but in the real mental silence, the wisdom dawns.
Again I fully admit in my day-to-day life as a mobile yoga teacher in the DC area, mouna is challenging. Or maybe it requires discipline I have yet to cultivate. Yet when I’m away, completely unplugged and hiding in the mountains, I am able to easily drop into the silence. The best part is I enjoy it. And the real beauty is when the silence fills you up from the inside, whispers of the divine can be heard from deep within. It’s an experience that can’t be fully described. I will say when I am blessed with extended silence the result is greater clarity in my thoughts and my writing is on fire. To this, I have last week’s silence to thank for this blog post.