The Wordless Word Space

July 7, 2009

Ever since I was a little kid, I was aware that my thoughts worked in layers.  I knew there was a part of me that would actively use words to think – where if I had opened my mouth my thoughts might come spilling out – another part that saw pictures, another part that remembered sounds, and then ever back and back and back from there seemed quieter and quieter voices, that sort of used words, but very far away, and in a different way.

It’s only in the last month or so of my meditation practice, that I’ve realized these ever quieter places are precisely where I’m trying to draw myself.  I owe this realization to the forms of practice I learned in my yoga school, of which frankly I was never a big fan.

The Tantric system uses a great deal of seed-syllable mantra in its meditation practice; for example, each chakra has its own syllable such as “yam” for the heart center, “ram” for the solar plexus, etc.  Practice can include focus on the internal, silent recitation of these syllables, the concentration for which will theoretically leads you to Samadhi (a goal with which I have big fundamental problems – subject of another post…).   As a Buddhist, I found a lot of these techniques clunky and scrambling to my Vipassana practice which requires nothing but simple, elegant, bare attention to the breath or sensation.

Though I still prefer the latter technique, it occurred to me recently that when I “say” these syllables in that front, loud part of the brain, they’re more accurately said first – but not said at all just sort of felt – in that much quieter part of the brain.  Acknowledging and accessing that far away part seems to be my key to discovering a more peaceful, still place inside, and creating the space necessary to gain vantage on a cluttered, monkey mind.

That non-saying place is what I’ve deemed my Wordless Word Space, and the recitation of that phrase has, in turn, become my mantra.  I’ve found I can access this place much quicker these days – probably due to the increased activity in my yoga practice – but I’m not able to stay for long.  The problem is once you start thinking about the fact that you’re there, you’re not there anymore.  Unattached concentration in this place is my next big goal.

It’s funny to me that I always knew this structure of my brain, but it never occurred to me beforehand to try to utilize it.  It relates directly to what Buddhists call “Identifying with the Observer.”  Whenever we feel something, or think something, there is an “I” that knows that is happening. If we realize we know it’s happening, then there is an “I” which knows we know.

It’s a spinning mirror constantly looking in upon itself, never coming to one solid, singular self.


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