Writing With and Within an Awareness of Silence
Anyone can write. When we write we spill the mind onto the page—we see the mind, we see our thoughts. This seeing makes us the see-er of our thoughts. There are our thoughts on the page (the object), and here we are (the subject). This process of externalizing and seeing our thoughts creates some separation between the thoughts—the writing—and who we are. The writing is not who we are, the thoughts are not who we are—it is all just a play, a theatre of sound and image occurring, unfolding, within the space of what we are, within consciousness.
Science today tells us that, as human beings, we’re constituted of more space than matter. Isn’t this profound, amazing? If space can be considered to be nothingness (the absence of something), and matter can be considered to be somethingness (the presence of something), then, as human beings, we’re actually composed of more nothingness than somethingness.
What does it mean to be composed of more nothingness than somethingness? From the perspective of a consciousness-based writer, this means that each one of us is more a field of unlimited, pure potential—pure consciousness, pure silence—than we are the expressions, attitudes, and personality traits that we consider to be ourselves. From this perspective, emphasis is placed on the unexpressed—a state of existence so simple, so settled and silent, that it is stillness itself, pure potentiality itself.
How do we know that the silence of the unexpressed is not a blank, dead silence? How do we know that this silence is a field of pure potential? Well, because we may have experienced it—moments in which we feel ourselves expanded beyond the limits of our name and form. In these moments we feel, “I’m not Anna; I’m me; I’m am.” In this “me-ness” or “am-ness” is the feeling—I’m not quite my name, not quite my life experiences, not what language can express about me; I’m something prior, something more. It’s a very rich, full feeling—you’re not bound by narrow definitions of yourself. You are pure Being. You’re not anything your mind can know and yet you’re One with the source of all knowing—pure, unlimited potential. This Being, this pure potential, is our deepest, truest nature.
If we haven’t yet experienced this field of pure potential, we may have heard it described by poets, spiritual leaders, philosophers, and even scientists. The mystic poet, Rumi, speaks of this field in his famous poem “Out Beyond Ideas”:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
When we write and express ourselves with our consciousness established in this pure and ultimately divine field, we write with silence itself.
Actually, we’re always writing with silence—this is happening all the time with writers of every ilk, with professional and student writers, whether they’re conscious of it or not. How can it be otherwise? This silence is nothing other than our truest nature, the deepest nature of Nature itself. It is impossible to exclude this silence. And the more we become conscious of this silence as a tangible and concrete aspect of the writing process, as potent and powerful as the word itself, the more opportunity we have, as writers, to invite immortality into our lives and into the life of the work that we create on the page.
This might sound mysterious, tremendous, but it is only like a recognition of the presence of the sun in our lives. The sun warms and lights the surface of the earth every day, maintaining life, its influence so pervasive that it often goes unacknowledged, every other one receiving credit for its beautiful work.
Silence, like the sun, is all-embracing; it includes everything within its magnanimous emptiness. When we become more conscious of silence as a potent force in our writing, we write with more surrender, more compassion, more listening to the gaps and pauses. The white space of the blank page does not intimidate—we welcome the unknown, the not knowing, the discovery and seeing of ourselves anew, anew, anew always. We do not have to say everything, know everything, we only have to say enough. Less becomes more—we do less and accomplish more. In a good story the characters seem to have a life of their own because they have more space to mess up, to be inexplicable, confused, spontaneous, to invent themselves, just to be. Like the sun, the presence of silence brings warmth to a manuscript, warmth to a writer, warmth to readers, enlivening life itself.
Anyone who can think thoughts can write, can commit her thoughts to paper. And anyone who can commit her thoughts honestly to paper can see both the play of the world (images and forms), and the play of silence within herself. There is no need to adopt a separate writing persona; so many personas are already there in all our myriad thoughts. See it all, and let it all be, and write freely, honestly, happily! There is nothing to do but see and be, for nothing that we put down, no word or thought, can scratch the surface of what we are—eternity, mystery, silence.
The Transcendental Meditation technique takes us from concrete thoughts on the surface of the mind to finer and finer values of thought deep within ourselves. It allows us to transcend the sphere of thought altogether and arrive at the source of thought—that field of pure potential, pure silence. The more we experience this beautiful silence in meditation, the more it flows into all our activities in the world, supporting our creativity in every way—as writers, mothers, cooks, business executives, doctors, teachers, lawyers. This silence is always there for us, no matter what our path through life.
About the Author
Sasha Kamini Parmasad is an educator, visual artist, and award-winning writer, with degrees from Williams College (B.A.) and Columbia University (M.F.A.). Her novel, Ink and Sugar, placed third in the national First Words Literary Contest for South Asian American Writers (2003), her poetry placed first in the annual Poetry International Competition (2008), and her collection of poems titled No Poem: A Divine Rising will be published this year (2015).