Tag Archives: silence

Reflections from silence

Just yesterday I finished my annual 3 week practice of silence and I wanted to share an entry from my diary which gives a hint why one would want to enter into silence:

Just this morning I went rowing for the second time. There was no rain, there were few clouds and almost no wind, so the lake was very calm and you could clearly see the reflection of the trees in the water. I enjoyed just staring over and into the water very much.

I came to understand the analogy of the mind with a lake a lot better because I suddenly had the idea to make a small experiment.

I held the boat still on a spot where I could clearly see the reflection of the top of the trees. I kept my eyes fixed on where I saw the reflection and in that place I started stirring the water with a paddle. When, because of the moving water, I wasn’t able to see the reflection anymore I stopped using the paddle and kept looking at that point. Suddenly, as the water started calming down, the reflection emerged and became clearer and clearer, until it was once again a very clear and accurate reflection of the tree top. I was amazed by seeing this, it was like a magic trick!

This little experiment helps my understanding that when the mind becomes perfectly calm, we can see things as they are. (And according to my understanding, seeing things as they are is the goal of the spiritual processes.)


Pictures from silence (2011) 守靜照片

I would like to share a number of pictures that I have taken after my first silence practice of 3 weeks, which was in 2011. The pictures were taken with my phone. I have also included one picture of myself almost immediately after the practice (it’s not one of the most flattering ones!).

Wolfgang calls this place his ‘cave’.





Two wings to fly. 雙翅飛翔

God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites so that you will have two wings to fly, not one.
~ Rumi

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3 – This article

Last year after my silence practice, I felt like I had never felt before. My meditations were deep and powerful, my mind was calm, my energy level was high and my love for others was intense. I only had positive things to say about my practice. People were surprised when I told them that this year I experienced almost three weeks of intense mental suffering. I would like to share with you what I learned from that suffering and I hope it helps you in your meditation practices.

The two main causes of my suffering were self-condemnation and expectation. Let me try to explain how self-condemnation affected me first. One of the interesting things that I have observed in myself since beginning the practice of yoga, is a very strong idea that I need to improve myself, that I need to become perfect, so that I can experience ‘samadhi’, ‘enlightenment’ or some other over-my-head kind of thing. I do not know if that idea was there before I learned about spirituality or if the practice of yoga gave that idea a chance to manifest itself, but that is actually not so important.

What is important is that this idea of having to improve myself is based on another idea: “I am not good enough”. This idea is one of the most dangerous things I have encountered in my life. The moment that I started accepting this idea, I stopped accepting myself. Not accepting yourself is fundamentally unyogic; the first practice of yoga is the practice of ahimsa (non-violence). Practicing ahimsa means practicing love. Love means accepting all and rejecting none, that means accepting yourself as well as others.

Why does the practice of yoga begin with accepting all and rejecting none? One reason is that meditation that starts from “I am not good enough”, turns into a frantic experience of trying to become something, trying to achieve something and trying to do something. But meditation only happens when effort slowly stops and a calm, relaxed, concentrated, peaceful and joyous awareness remains. The only thing that you become when meditating from the “I am not good enough” idea is depressed and/or frustrated!

That depression and frustration is exactly what I experienced this year. And I experienced it very intensely. Even though I had already let go of a lot of my self-condemnation, that which is still present in me came forward in a very strong way.

There are two reasons that I was able to learn from my self-condemnation. One reason is that by experiencing the madness of trying to achieve something for a long period of time, I began to understand the uselessness of it. Another reason is that, whenever it was needed, Wolfgang reminded me to stop with condemning myself.

Some self-condemnation still comes up in me every now and then, but now it does not influence me as it did before. I do not know if a tidal wave of self-condemnation will rise in my mind on another occassion, but I also do not fear it.

The second cause of my suffering was my expectation. A great teacher of meditation once said that he has observed something very interesting in almost every practicioner of meditation. The first time a newcomer meditates, he has a wonderful experience, the second time he meditates, he has wonderful expectations. The point is that meditation is great the first time because there is no expectation, and the second time it is not because of expectation.

Even though I knew all of this, it still happened to me. Last year I had a wonderful experience and I expected it to be like that again this year. It was in fact worse, I was expecting it to be better! And in this way I created an experience of frustration for myself. I was not getting what I expected (and desired), so I got frustrated.

The most interesting part is that I was realising that expectation is causing problems for me, so I tried to let go of my expectation with the expectation that my meditation will improve! It shouldn’t be hard to imagine how my attempts only blew up in my face because of this.

As with the self-condemnation, I began to understand the uselessness of my expectations better by experiencing the fruits of my expectations intensely. And again, Wolfgang was there to help and remind me of the suffering I was creating for myself.

What’s more, I misunderstood my suffering as me having some sort of defect (more self-condemnation), because I thought that meditation should make me feel wonderful (expectation). A few days before my practice came to an end, I was free of this vicious circle because I realised that everything I was going through is simply a part of my development and learning process. The realisation came from that wonderful Rumi quote that you can find at the beginning of this post, I’d like to invite you to reread it. When I experienced freedom from this vicious circle, I understood the importance of mental freedom, the subject of my previous post.

With this I’d like to end the sharing of the lessons learned from silence this year. Do let me know if it the posts on my silence practice are helpful to you in any way!

~ 魯米

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3 – 本文






我之所能夠從自責中學習,有兩個原因。其一,由於經歷過試著達成某件事的瘋狂狀態,我開始了解這有多麼沒有意義。另一個原因是,無論何時,只要我需要, Wolfgang(沃夫岡)總會提醒我,要我停止自責。









Sing like the birds sing. 如鳥兒般歌唱

I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.
~ Rumi

Part 1
Part 2 – This article
Part 3

Dear friends,

Now I have the time to complete the sharing of the lessons learned during my silence practice this year. What I want to share on the blog here is a bit too much to share in one post, so there will be one follow-up post to this one.

The most important thing that I learned in my practice this year, is the importance of remaining mentally free. When I use the term ‘mentally free’, I do not mean something over-your-head. I mean being free from ideas of how life should be and accepting life as it presents itself to you, by remaining free from judgements and expectations. Allow me to illustrate this concept in this post, and explain how I learned about it in the next post.

I have observed that many yoga teachers and students have a very strong idea that yoga, and especially meditation, should be practiced seated on the floor in a cross-legged posture. Some will even go so far as to say that using a chair for meditation is not yoga and that it is wrong! This leads to two kinds of unnecessary suffering:

  1. Physical suffering. In our current times, we are not used to sitting on the ground and we also do not have a lot of physical exercise. The body is then not prepared to sit on the floor, and especially not for a prolonged period of time. When an unprepared body is suddenly made to assume a cross-legged posture, the body will hurt like crazy! Moreover, meditation will simply not happen when the body is suffering without reason.
  2. Mental suffering: First of all, a student will practice a cross-legged posture under the duress of his or his teacher’s idea of what yoga is. Practicing under duress disturbs meditation in a many ways, some of which are hard to notice. Secondly, since the student is not able to practice according to that idea in a comfortable way, he will slowly start to think he is a bad student. I will explain the problems of self-condemnation from my personal experience in the next post.

Being mentally free in the example I just gave means letting go of the idea that meditation should be practiced seated on the floor. Learning to sit on the ground is not essential for meditation. I do not mean to say that meditation on the floor does not have certain benefits, but the choice to learn to sit on the ground should be made

  • freely, willfully and joyfully;
  • free from self-judgements and expectations;
  • when the circumstances allow for it.

My experience is that this kind of mental freedom makes the experience of life wonderful. It does require the courage to let go of all external support, becoming self-reliant and claiming responsibility for how you feel and this is not always easy.

~ 魯米

Part 1
Part 2 – 本文
Part 3





  1. 身體折磨:在我們的時代裡,我們並不習慣於坐在地上,也沒有太多的運動。我們的身體於是尚未準備好坐在地板上,尤其無法坐上一段較長的時間。當一個沒有準備好的身體突然間被迫成盤腿坐姿時,我們的身體會痛疼得不得了!再者,當身體這樣無來由地痛苦時,我們是無法進入靜坐狀態的。
  2. 心理折磨:首先,在老師或本身對於瑜珈的概念的壓力之下,一個學生會以盤坐的姿勢練習。然而,在受迫的狀況下練習,在很多方面而言,都會干擾靜坐,有些甚至難以察覺。第二,因為學生無法根據自己對瑜珈的想法而舒服地練習,他會漸漸地認為自己是個壞學生。在下一篇文章中,我會從自己的經驗裡,分享有關自責的問題。


  • 抱持自由、自願、喜樂的態度;
  • 不帶任何評斷和期待;
  • 在情況允許之下.



Alone, not lonely 獨處,但不寂寞

Part 1 – This article
Part 2
Part 3

So yesterday I finished a three weeks practice of silence in North Germany and I was in essence all alone. When I did the same thing last year, the most common question asked was “Didn’t you miss your girlfriend, family members, friends, etc.?” The simple answer is “No”, but it is interesting to know why.

This year in my practice, I twice found myself crying out of gratitude for the presence of all the beautiful people in my life. I do not know if you have ever experienced this, but I can tell you it is wonderful.

The question is whether or not this sort of experience can happen only when you are in silence. I am sure that the answer is no, but silence in the way that I practiced definitely stimulates such an experience.

In my native language (Dutch) there is a saying which translated into English goes “Whatever the heart is full of, the mouth spills”. This is not true. In actuality, whatever the head is full of, the mouth spills; and whatever the heart is full of, the eyes spill.

In our daily life, our minds are filled with many many impressions. They come from our experiences at work, world news, entertainment, etc. There is nothing wrong with these impressions, but they do fill your head and make your mouth spill them. Then meaningful conversations with your loved ones remain few and the true blessing of your relationship is hard to feel.

I remember that a few weeks before I entered into silence I was at a restaurant with two friends. I was in more of listening mood on that day and I was surprised by and interested in what I heard. In one hour of talking, nothing was said! When I asked them then and there if they remembered what they had talked about, they said no! I wonder if they even remember that we went to dinner…

In a prolonged period of silence, the mind can process the daily impressions because you don’t give it any new ones. Then it becomes easy to come in touch with your feelings and you may find yourself crying out of gratitude. And then you do not miss those you love.

If I could make a suggestion to you, it would be to contemplate on the beautiful people in your life and to allow yourself to feel what you feel for them. You will be pleasantly surprised, I promise.

There is much more to say about my silence practice, but since I don’t want to bore you, I will write about it in the next post.

Part 1 – 本文
Part 2
Part 3