One of the primary traits of higher states of consciousness described by Eastern philosophers is the experience of "inner silence." But, to normal folks living in the Western world, this idea probably doesn't really make much sense. You might be wondering "Am I supposed to turn off my brain? Do I try to silence my thoughts? Is that even possible? How can I have no thoughts - wouldn't I cease to exist?" Again, I'm going to try and clarify some sappy guru-speak to try and get this idea bouncing around inside your thick, hyper-rational skull.
Let's play with an analogy to make this clear. Everybody has experienced the dream-state level of consciousness. While dreaming, your ENTIRE state of awareness is COMPLETELY submersed within the reality of the dream. In a dream, you are totally unaware of any reality outside of what is happening in your happy little dream world. With the exception of lucid dreaming (when one becomes aware that they are in a dream), a person does not have the ability to adopt any perspective outside of whatever their dream is throwing at them. There is no concept of life outside of the dream land. You're stuck in the dream, and that's it.
Sheldon's dream land (not pictured: nude beach, giant drum set, lifting platform, laptop)
Now, think about your normal, waking state level of consciousness. In this reality, your entire state of existence is defined by the content of your thoughts. In higher states, it is possible to FILTER your thoughts BEFORE you think them. This means that you are no longer engulfed in the frantic thought-reality that most people spend their entire lives in. Later, I will describe tools which allow this process to take place.
I Just Lied to You
Well, at least about the idea that your thoughts COMPLETELY dictate your current state of awareness.
The truth is that there is much more at play in your mind then just the content of your thoughts. A simple example of this is your reflexes. When you start to slip down a stair, you catch yourself without thinking about it. Certainly there is intelligence lurking beneath your conscious mind.
My point is that the experience of inner silence cannot be explained, it must be experienced. Try to describe the sensation of being drunk to a child, and you will find yourself babbling like an idiot. Sure, you can list the symptoms (sickness, slowed reflexes, etc.), but the FEELING cannot be communicated through words. You gotta get that kid drunk (just kidding).
Freud and the Unconscious
In fact, Freud conceptualized the mind as divided between the conscious and the unconscious. Through the process of sublimation, our conscious thoughts settle into a place which we cannot access through our thoughts. Freud believed that we probably don't have very much control over how our subconscious mind influences our behavior.
Regardless of your thoughts on Freud, it's pretty obvious that we CAN control the kinds of thoughts that we allow to pass through our conscious awareness. This happens in two different ways.
First, we have some level of control over what our environment feeds to our brain. Each situation we place ourselves in dictates the experiences we have, and therefore the thoughts that we think. Developmental psychologists such as Dabrowski emphasized the role that our environment has on our personality development. There is no way to understate the importance of our surroundings and the way they dictate our development, values, level of happiness, and behavior.
Western Explanations of Inner Silence
But, today, science has proven that techniques such as Transcendental Meditation allow us to CHANGE the way we respond to the experiences our environment creates. The first reason this is true is because such techniques are proven to improve overall brain functioning. This means that we can analyze all of the different pieces of our lives from an entirely new perspective. Ultimately, this means that we can improve our responses to the situations we face.
During transcendence, the mind is effortlessly settled into a restful, alert state of bliss. This level of consciousness has been physiologically identified and distinguished from all other forms of awareness in many scientific papers. Simply put, transcendence allows the cells in your brain to work together in an optimized way. Not surprisingly, it's also the most peaceful and organized way, too.
Another way to explain inner silence is as a cleansing of the unconscious mind. Or, rather, a simultaneous cleansing of the unconscious mind and a unification of the conscious/unconscious content. The result is a state of awareness which can feed new experiences effectively into the unconscious without having to analyze with the conscious mind (thought).
Stop Thinking . . . and Become Free?
As the brain becomes increasingly coherent and efficient, the individual becomes increasingly capable of solving their own problems. This is why the TM technique has been proven to be the most effective way to quit smoking - people simply lose the desire to light another cigarette. Similarly, they lose the desire to cause interpersonal conflicts, take advantage of other people, and to commit crimes (I am not making this up).
This is why I describe higher states of consciousness as tools of liberation: It is only our own capacity to resolve our own problems that allows us to develop both individually and collectively. It is only when the brain is functioning 100% that we have maximize our happiness and success.
As we prioritize the development of our own consciousness, we begin the process of continuously improving our own lives. Over time, these actions accumulate into improvements which reflect across all aspects of society.
After all . . . if you were being seduced by Fabio, would you THINK about it, or just let it happen?