“The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.”
The point of the piece was that the higher truths about God/The Tao/Universe/Nature can’t be understood through language or naming things. In other words, trying to use our minds to comprehend the weightier matters of the universe is futile.
How best then to approach these matters? By sensing them.
The purpose of today’s piece is to expand on the topic of transcending language. If this sounds confusing, here are three examples that illustrate what I mean.
Example #1: Meditating on a single word
The example that fueled the idea for this article came from my meditation practice. For many years one of my go-to cues has involved saying a single word in my head. I’d do it in the last part of my meditation sessions, after I’d calmed down into some level of presence.
All it entails is this: I inhale, then on the exhale I say in my head the word ‘still.’ And just keep doing that.
I’ve found that simply saying ‘still’ on each exhale deepens and perpetuates the stillness I’m already feeling.
Sensing the stillness without saying the word
Here’s the wrinkle I’ve added in the past few weeks. Instead of saying ‘still’ on the exhale, I focus solely on sensing the stillness. It’s subtle.
Why is this “better” for me? What does eliminating words/language from my meditation accomplish?
I think it allows me to go deeper. To feel even more still. Why is this? It gets back to those first few lines of the Tao. The naming and speaking of things take us further away from them.
Our souls don’t know the language
It makes sense if you think about it. The soul doesn’t know anything about language or words. We’re born with a spirit that manifests as energy/shakti/chi coursing through our bodies. That spirit is not of the mind. It’s much deeper and stronger than anything the mind can possibly fathom.
But it’s also elusive. And mysterious. If it wasn’t, we’d know the answers to the big questions of life.
Example #2: Near-death experiences with a beautiful white light
That brings me to another example, one that blows my mind. It comes from NDEs (near-death experiences), a subject that I’m shocked doesn’t receive more attention.
You’ve heard of the many common experiences of those who have medically died and come back to life, whether from a heart attack, car accident or any number of causes.
The one that I find most consequential is of those who report being next to a brilliant, white light. That light gives them a feeling of total and complete love and acceptance. It also tells the near-dead not to worry. That everything is going to be okay.
But here’s the catch: These people all say that this white light (God? Who knows?) didn’t actually speak to them. It just somehow communicated the above in a way they couldn’t explain.
That, to me, is the perfect example of how the higher power/higher plane communicates in ways other than language.
Example #3: Movie dates
In my early dating years (high school) I used to take girls to movies. Mostly because I loved movies. Who doesn’t?
But I remember my dad always telling me, “Why do you take a date to the movies? You’re just sitting there in the dark. Go out for dinner where you can talk and get to know each other.”
Well, here’s the thing. I look back and see that two relative strangers watching a movie together felt intimate to me. It was if our souls would come out and get to know each other while our egoic minds stayed out of it. No talking. Just our energies commingling. That’s how it felt to me.
The supposition of this piece, then, is that removing the barrier of language in certain areas of our lives will serve to deepen our connection to this subtle and mysterious higher power.
How can we take that idea and make it useful to us in some practical way? Consider trying this no-language thing in these three situations, and any others that strike your fancy:
1. Meditation: If you meditate and use word cues as part of your practice, try dispensing with the words for part of a session. Sense them without saying them. See how it goes.
I already mentioned the use of ‘still.’ I also frequently use ‘relax’ in the early part of a session when doing the body scan. And of course, ‘neck,’ ‘hand,’ ‘jaw,’ and several other body parts. I’ve been sensing those, too, rather saying the words in my head.
2. Any Beautiful Scene: Let’s say you’re watching an absolutely sublime sunset; pinks, reds, and oranges mingling to form a colorful concoction of natural beauty that knocks your socks off.
Try something different. Resist the temptation of saying to yourself or even somebody who’s watching with you, “Wow, what an amazing sunset! Look at the amalgam of brilliant colors!”
Instead, try following your breath a few times. Then look at the sunset from a place of pure presence. No thought. No words. No describing. No commenting.
Commune with the sunset
Let your conscious presence commune with the sunset. Let the natural you commingle with this other part of nature…the sunset.
Granted, this can be hard. I’m one of those who get excited about things and want to share my thoughts, emotions, and enthusiasm with others. Or with myself if I’m alone.
The problem is that when we do this, we cheat ourselves out of deeper, more profound experiences.
3. Listening to music
When listening to one of your favorite songs, one that transports you to that other realm, try to be there completely. In the moment. Experiencing the sounds of the music with no commentary in your head.
Treat the music like that sublime sunset. Just you and it communing with each other. Dancing with each other. No words. No language. No thinking. No involving the mind.
The key point here is to take the middle man, language, out of certain situations so that the higher power in us can commune with the higher power “out there.” I hope you’ll give it a try.
Thanks for reading and have a great week.