are we actually nothing but silence?

Vic Shayne
13 Pillars of Enlightenment: How to realize your true nature and end suffering

photo: Clément Falize

Speaking about silence is paradoxical: What is there to say, what words can be used, to convey what silence is, when silence itself does not involve any words, speech, sound, descriptions, and so on? And yet we all know what silence is. How do we know? And how can we say that we are, at our essence, silence?

Silence cannot be created; it is ever-present within, around, and beyond all that is material or phenomenal. It is a spaceless space, a stateless state, an ineffable reality beyond all that is ephemeral. Whether we are happy or sad, angry or calm, good or bad, the one and only silence still sits at the core of our beingness. And it is silence that remains when the emotions dissipate. It is silence alone that ever exists between thoughts and between movements. Silence is the blank and motionless screen upon which the epic movie of life appears to play. It is the screen upon which our lives unfold.

not this, not this
To find silence takes a process of elimination that the gurus of India call neti, neti, meaning not this, not this. By eliminating all of what silence is not, silence becomes evident. Beyond all existence is that which does not exist — not a thing or a place, but an ultimate reality. When the sense of self disappears, silence remains, and this leads us to ask what the implications are of this truth.

The process of neti, neti, allows you to drill down beneath the egoic self and consciousness to uncover the reality of silence. I used to think that you have to work at this, but this is not really the case. HOWEVER, for me it’s a matter of realizing that you are not the body, and you are that awareness which is not of the mind, but behind the mind (to use an insufficient spatial metaphor) and not of it so that you watch it and watch it until the thoughts no longer hold any attachment for you and they come to a stop. The mind eventually shuts off completely. No thoughts at all. It’s a strange occurrence, because we are so used to the busyness of the mind and its cascading array of thoughts all through our waking lives that when it shuts off it is a wondrous reality that is stunning to the mind. It is an unalloyed awareness that becomes known, unattached to thought. And since thought is what the self is made of, the self is no longer the driving force of your life.

no will no effort involved
Finding silence is not a matter of will or effort. It comes from attending to the source of what we are rather than what has arisen out of this source. In other words, the attention remains on the subject rather than the object, with the subject being the essence of you and the object being everything that is happening “out there” in the world where our bodies exist.

The source is silent stillness, and arising out of it is consciousness and all of its forms and phenomena, including thought. And arising out of this thought is the self; and out of the self arises suffering.

Once you find silence you realize it has found you, because silence reveals that there is no you or anything else at the depths of what you really are.

there is no experiencer in silence
Is silence what we really are, beyond a sense of self, the ego, the body, and all our identities, attachments, and flesh and bone? When all becomes still and quiet, we are apt to say that we have experienced silence, that we found ourselves sitting in silence. Who is this “we” who claim to be the experiencers? To perceive things from the point of view of a “we” or an “I” suggests that the sense of self has not given way to silence. When there is no absolute abidance in silence then the “me” remains the experiencer, and all that it sees in terms of its problems and emotions is itself.

When silence is fully evident we cannot even say, “I am silence.” But once consciousness comes back into play we may have the realization that we are silence itself.

are we silence?
What, then, does it take to identify oneself as silence instead of as a person with all of its attachments, fear, suffering, experiences, and so on? While mentally — logically — we may say that we are silence, such knowledge is based on thought and not a realization. Mentation or imagination can paint a picture of what it might be like to walk in the mountains on a spring morning, but unless you have actually inhaled the crisp air, listened to the gurgling of a brook, and smelled the fragrant pines there is no realization.

Silence is what remains once all thoughts, including the thought that you are just a physical body, disappear. And along with this thought, the proclamation “I am” must also disappear. In silence there is not even a sense of “I am,” because silence is not consciousness, but rather the source of consciousness. If you are interested, find this out for yourself. Be quiet. Sit quietly until all thoughts cease as well as all sense of existence. Disappear completely and you will discover that you still exist.



…writer for 40+ years, mind/body practitioner, self-enquiry meditation, NY Times best selling author (, consultant, researcher.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Vic Shayne

…writer for 40+ years, mind/body practitioner, self-enquiry meditation, NY Times best selling author (, consultant, researcher.