Is having a silent mind essential to spiritual development, and what exactly is gained by practicing inner silence?
True silence is not just the absence of noise; it is a kind of spiritual medium in which not only are we able to discern what is false, but through which what is true can increasingly reach us and teach us. It is very helpful to practice some form of being silent. As you develop a "taste" for inner quiet, you will not only long more for this silent friend, but you will find new ways to bring it along with you wherever you go. The fundamental purpose of spending time in quiet or silence is to make clear to ourselves all of the many relationships that we are continually experiencing in thoughts and feelings within ourselves without knowing it. As we work at being quiet and stepping back from ourselves, we begin to realize that there is an "I" or sense of self that exists apart from all of this inner company. Eventually, we will find ourselves effortlessly centered within this silent self. When this occurs, and as this occurs, we enjoy the sense of strength and comfort that comes with knowing ourselves apart from any of the temporary inner visitors we formerly took ourselves to be. Keep practicing.
What is meditation, and is there some "best" method for its practice?
Real meditation is our willingness and work to be aware of what we are in relationship with within ourselves twenty-four hours a day. To answer what is the best method of meditation, we must first understand the purpose of meditation. True meditation allows us to enter into relationship and to be with those parts of ourselves that await us within and above ourselves. This new order of self-unity - where the observer perceives his oneness with the observed - is realized through conscious awareness, the true foundation of all forms of meditation. With this in mind, the notion of a "best" form of meditation becomes simple and personal: Find the practice that best fulfills the continuous flowering of this awareness.