Silence Is The Royal Road To Enlightenment: The Power of Witnessing the Internal and External World

Posted on November 28th, by Dr. Puff in Articles. No Comments

What is perhaps the most important thing we can do to wake up and discover who we are is to ask ourselves “Who are we?” But is it knowledge and having the right information that enable us to wake up? Is it having a secret mantra so that we know who we are? Is it having a mystical experience so wonderful that it awakens us to the truth and reality of who we are?

No. It is really none of these things, although they are all important and wonderful experiences that we can have. But what I believe and have discovered to be the most important aspect of discovering who we are is silence.

If we’re new to our search for enlightenment, the most important thing we can do is be still. Instead of engaging with the world around us or with our internal world of thoughts, desires and fears, we can just watch our thoughts and see what arises. We have such a habit of engaging with our thoughts, feelings, desires and fears, but instead let’s start working on just watching and witnessing them without any commentary.

I remember when I first began to do this it was so wonderful and freeing. I could watch myself engaging with my wife, perhaps discussing something intensely, and even see the emotions rise within me. But simultaneously I could just witness them. I was detached from them and I’d simply watch them. I didn’t provide commentary for them or talk about them in my head. I just watched my feelings, ideas and words arise. By not engaging with them, they became still.

An analogy of this would be: imagine that we are a pond and in our depths are the most beautiful, indescribable essences of who we are. Unicity and deep oneness. But because we have taken on this form of humanness, two things prevent us from discovering or realizing who we are. One is external, the other is internal. Externally resides everything in our world with which we come into contact. It doesn’t in and of itself have to disturb the waters so that we can’t see into the depths of who we are, but it can. It could be something like an argument, a TV show, or anything that keeps us from just being. The second thing is internal: our thoughts, commentary, desires and fears. They can also keep us from seeing the depths of who we are. Again, they don’t have to, but they can. If we work on these two things then we can learn to be still anywhere.

I remember many years ago my wife and I were at her high school reunion and towards the end of the evening they had dinner and dancing. I didn’t know a lot of people because we went to different high schools. I remember the music was blaring and my wife was talking to some of her friends. With all that going on, I just became still inside. Even with all the external music, noise and conversations, I could, like the pond, be perfectly still.

Mind you, it helps to have a quieter environment in which to be still and I highly recommend having times when we’re in a peaceful, quiet place. This is why I give retreats on meditation and silence. I love to give silent retreats because they really provide us with an opportunity to be still. But there are people who live their lives in monasteries on silent retreats and even when they’re there, because their minds are active, they too disturb the water.

You can be in the most pristine, quiet retreat center in the world and be very disturbed inside. It’s our mind, mental commentary, fears and desires that keep us from being silent. It’s something we need to work on and at first it can be quite challenging. But if we keep trying, we become quieter and more peaceful. We discover in that silence who we are.

I want to provide you with a mantra or phrase that you can use throughout the day to quiet the mind. It’s like having a thorn to take out another thorn from our foot, before throwing them both away. We need a concept, such as this mantra, to take out the first thorn of mental chatter that goes on all day long. What we can say throughout the day is “I am the witness only. I am the witness only.” When we’re going through our day and we’re noticing that we’re engaging in mental activity instead of being still, we can repeat this mantra.

What we’ll find is that by hearing the mantra over and over throughout the day, it will help still the mind. It will help to make the pond perfectly still so that we can see deep within it, into the oneness and the non-duality of who we are.

As we continue to explore the world of enlightenment, let’s be still. Let’s give our mind the time just to be quiescent and not think about anything. Let’s just watch and be the witness of our thoughts without engaging with them or the world around us.

Be still, be silent, and watch the silence take us to where we need to go.

Resource Box:
Dr. Robert Puff, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, international speaker, and meditation expert who has been counseling individuals, families, nonprofits, and businesses for over twenty years. A contributing writer to Psychology Today, he has authored numerous books and creates a weekly podcast on happiness at He also creates a weekly podcast on meditation, and a weekly podcast on spiritual enlightenment, His retreat schedules can be found at You also might find his blog useful at If you are interested in having Dr. Puff speak to your organization or company, you can learn more about his speaking services at

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