The Quiet Brain

The brain seems to be compulsively busy, constantly stimulated, or so exhausted that it goes to sleep, and the sleeping brain is noisy and busy with dreams. But is the sleeping brain as compulsively noisy and busy dreaming as the waking mind is thinking, or is it quiet between dreams? If so, is it possible to be as lucid when not dreaming as it is when dreaming?

I’ve heard that the actual amount of time the brain dreams is very short although the sensations’ activities experienced during the dream state feel long. Don’t know what you’re getting at with “lucid”. Deep sleep without dreams refreshes the brain cells and there is no recording and hence no memory of that time as in the dreaming or waking state.

Yes, that’s what I’m getting at.

If being quiet means having no memory of being quiet, the noisy brain can not know what quietude is without ceasing to be what it is, and can’t consciously cease to be what it is until it knows itself thoroughly.

Sound must realize that when it is continuous, incessant, silence is just another word, another thought, a concept, something that can only be known by ceasing. Silence is the context - sound is the content.

Btw, apologies for not joining the discussion today as I wanted to. I have been swamped with work commitments, so the quiet brain has had to take a back seat!

Apologies for taking the wheel…

No problem, that’s fine - it is a question for everyone. It’s just that I have been too busy to take part. I hope to find some time today.

I remember a poster on the old forum, and I can’t remember who, who talked about the state of consciousness just after waking from sleeping being different, as it had been preceded by a period of silence in the brain (I think that’s what the poster said). This struck me as interesting and I can relate to this. How do others see this?

That’s interesting. I was doing a little search online about the quiet brain, and I came across this passage:

So we are asking how does it happen that the brain, which is so tremendously, eagerly, enthusiastically active, can naturally, easily, without any effort and suppression, be quiet? … I’ll show it to you. As we said, during the day it is active endlessly. The moment you wake up, you look out of the window and say, ‘Oh, awful rain’, or, ‘It’s a marvellous, lovely morning, but too hot’. You have started. At that moment when you look out of the window not to say a word, not suppressing words, to realise that by saying, ‘What a lovely morning, what a horrible rain’, this or that, the mind has started, brain has started. But if you watch out of the window and not say a word, which doesn’t mean you suppress the word, just to observe without all the memory of the past rushing, just to observe. Right? So there you have the clue, there you have the key. To observe without the old brain responding. (Talk 7, Saanen, 1970)

The implication is that on waking there is a momentary gap, a space, before the influx of the day begins (with all its demands and problems). And if we can explore that gap, that space (which seems to be the brief continuity of the quiet of sleep, or has in it the quality of the quiet of sleep), then there is an opportunity for the brain to be naturally quiescent.

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Elsewhere in the same talk he talks about the importance of unforced physical stillness.

the brain and therefore the body, must be completely quiet. So one has to find out whether your body can completely sit still, or lie still, without any movement - again, not force it. Because the body, the brain are interrelated, psychosomatically they function, not separately… How can the brain, which is so tremendously active, not only during the day time but when you have gone to sleep, how can this brain be so completely relaxed and completely quiet? (Talk 7, Saanen, 1970)

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I’ve shared a couple of extracts (with Sean) just to get a sense of the terrain here, and I thought it worth sharing this one too, as it again conveys the possibility of an unforced, natural quietness - this time in relation to those moments when we are freely interested in something for itself:

To understand anything, any human or scientific problem, what is important, what is essential? A quiet mind, is it not?, a mind that is intent on understanding… If I really want to understand something, there is immediately a quiet state of mind. When you want to listen to music or look at a picture which you love, which you have a feeling for, what is the state of your mind? Immediately there is a quietness, is there not? (The First and Last Freedom)

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The brain in sleep is an interesting question - deep sleep in particular.

In deep sleep (or slow wave, non-REM sleep) the body is still active in sending blood and oxygen to the brain, but the heart rate slows down, bodily heat is reduced, and the amount of oxygen being used is reduced - it is as though one were to all intents and purposes dead to the world.

Apparently the brain (and body) needs this time of slow-wave deep sleep to restore its vital functions.

The value of a quiet brain when awake may be that this restorative process continues while awake, and positively affects the relationship that the brain has to its environment, as well as the relationships it has in its environment.


This sounds worth exploring. I’m used to feeling groggy after sleep, even more after a nap. I’ve always assumed that’s physiology, it takes a while for the body to come back up to speed after deep sleep. But I’ve never explored this state, seen if there’s something more to it.

What provokes this understanding? Why would one conclude that a quiet mind is essential?

Maybe you can think of something that you genuinely care about or are interested in. For some people it may be music. For others it may be their child, or an animal, or just contact with nature. It may be when you are looking at the moon at night, or watching a sunset, or listening to the leaves sough through the trees on a quiet evening, feeling on your skin the warmth of the day carried on the evening breeze.

In order to really appreciate these things, there is naturally, spontaneously, quiet. It is not a conclusion, is it?

I am repeating this from the other thread, because it is more relevant here:

To me, there is something special to be physically still. One can be on a train, in a car, on a boat, at the beach, lying in bed, sitting on the sofa, sitting on the grass outside - and the mind, the heart, has more space to breathe.

One can find stillness in movement of course - in walking, doing yoga, dancing (though not for me!), playing tennis or swimming or surfing or volleyball, etc. There can be a stillness in watering the garden, doing the dishes, taking out the garbage.

But there is a different quality to this stillness when the body is (naturally) physically still. The stillness penetrates more deeply, the mind opens up, the heart opens up. It’s like one has permission to be alive.

Hi Rick and James. Thanks for the replies. All I can say is that sometimes after waking after sleeping, I seem to have a short period of slightly altered consciousness with perhaps some heightened sensitivity.

Here’s another quote from K on this matter:


“It is good to wake up without a single thought, with its problems. Then the mind is rested; it has brought about order within itself and that is why sleep is so important. Either it brings about order in its relationship and action during the waking hours, which gives to the mind complete rest during sleep, or during sleep it will attempt to arrange its affairs to its own satisfaction. During the day there will again be disorder caused by so many factors, and during the hours of sleep the mind will try to extricate itself from this confusion. Mind, brain, can only function efficiently, objectively, where there is order. Conflict in any form is disorder. Consider what the mind goes through every day of its life: the attempt at order in sleep and disorder during waking hours. This is the conflict of life, day in, day out. The brain can only function in security, not in contradiction and confusion. So it tries to find it in some neurotic formula but the conflict becomes worse. Order is the transformation of all this mess. When the observer is the observed there is complete order.”

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We like to talk about the quiet mind. It is comforting. To me there is real danger in it. The fact is our minds are not quiet. To quiet the mind had been the work of religion. By work I mean effort, control. The mind, to me, is not loud because of thought. It is loud because of conflict. The focus should be on the resolution of conflict and not the volume of thought. I think we need to understand the structure of thought, not how to make the mind quiet.

Hello Joe. Do you find talking about the quiet mind comforting? I find it interesting, but I wouldn’t say comforting. K talked a lot about the quiet mind. I don’t know if he found it comforting or not.

Sure! The idea of my mind being quiet sounds fab. I know my mind is involved in all sorts of misery. I see that. The comforting response is that I wish my mind were quiet. And from that impulse we talk about it here. I’m not saying that’s wrong. But yes I find the concept of a quiet mind comforting.

Must one agree with your generalisation? You find the notion of a quiet mind comforting, and you generalise from your own reaction to everyone else posting comments. But not everyone finds the notion of a quiet mind comforting. Some find it frightening, because it has certain implications for our psychology. Others are interested in it because K talked about it, and they may want to explore it for that reason. Others may be genuinely interested in it for its own sake.

As always, there is absolutely no need to join a discussion about a topic that holds no inherent interest for you. If you want to discuss conflict, you can either join other threads discussing it (there are many!) or start your own thread on the subject. There is also currently a thread open for people to complain about other people talking (called “Why talk at all?”), so there are many options available! This thread is about the quiet brain, that’s all.