Peace and quiet in the middle of a field.
I have made a commitment to quiet.
A year not of silence, but of quiet.
Let’s call it "The Year Of Living Quietly".
I’m only speaking when necessary.
The interesting thing is that I seem to have said more in the last 20 days since I made this commitment than in many years.
People are responding to me in amazing ways when they learn I have made a commitment to quiet.
“I have to admit I’m a bit envious.”
“Good for you. I would love to be able to do that.”
“I do my best to be silent around my home during the day for introspection.”
I’m taking it day by day, of course.
Because of what I do as a teacher it is pretty impossible to be completely silent. BUT I am tinkering with it in class.
What I have observed so far is that the students DO get quieter when I fill them in on my commitment. Quieter, more present, more focused.
I have quiet days (minimal talking) and then I will have silent days when I can (no talking at all).
How did this come about?
I have been thinking about it for some time.
I was (am) the proverbial Chatty Cathy. I was talkative in grade school - and that was duly noted in report card after report card.
Then I went into the entertainment field - the business of talking.
When I began to study then teach meditation I realized how lovely it was to have those moments of silence.
That being said, the lion’s share of my classes are guided so…more talking.
Each class has a section of silent meditation.
Many, many students tell me how they struggle in the silence.
They often remark that the class goes more quickly, and they are much more focused and present, when they can listen to a voice or music.
That is because thoughts are distracting in the silence. When a thought crosses our minds instead of letting it come and go we start actively thinking and then our minds are off to the races.
Acknowledge that you have a thought instead of worrying that meditation's purpose is to achieve an empty mind and have no thoughts.
We have to accept that we are thinking beings and understand that the thought will be there when we are done with our meditation.
Or not, so don't worry about that either.
Years ago I read a book and taught a class on that particular book. The book is called The Ragged Edge of Silence. The author, John Francis, walked North America for 22 years after witnessing two tankers collide and creating an oil spill in San Francisco. He walked in protest and refused to use motorized vehicles from the day he witnessed the spill onward. (He has a talk on TED Talks and I highly recommend watching it.)
He, like me, was an avid talker.
However, with his newfound activism, he was getting into a lot of arguments and confrontations.
To mitigate those arguments he thought "what if I am silent for one day? What will happen?"
That one day turned into 17 years. In that time he got his Bachelor's degree, Master's degree and Ph.D. He didn't say a word.
He didn't want to contribute to the problem of too much talking and not enough doing, listening and hearing.
After a lot of reflection, here are some of the reasons I am embarking on this for the year :
-to listen better
-to learn more
-to read more
-to write more
-to train my mind to think less (Yes, think less! Once you get over the impetus of "I CAN'T TALK!!" you relax and actually think LESS.)
-to think about and measure my words, responses, input, dialogue, and expression.
-to learn a new musical instrument.
Our country is in a crisis of words. There is not enough dialogue but there is plenty of arguing, yelling, insulting, profanity, and violence.
Is this a new thing? No, but I refuse to contribute to it.
Maybe this is also MY protest.
In a very small way, and especially since I teach in communities where violence, discrimination and injustice is part of daily life, I want to make a difference.
Some may say I am crazy or looking for attention (the crazy part may be true but I don't need ANY attention).
Others may be supportive or just scratch their heads and go about their merry way. I’m ok with ALL of that!
Already on day 20, I feel freer. I hear more. I am calmer. I relax more. I see more. I am more aware.
I thought I was pretty aware already!
If I HAVE to say something it is concise and to the point. No wasted words, and long explanations.
In those situations where I do talk more I find myself yearning NOT to talk. Chitter chatter doesn't fit in at this point.
Talking is attached to thinking...and wouldn't it be lovely not to think so much?
That is certainly a challenge for deep, analytical and introspective thinkers.
Psychologically, excessive talking can be a sign of anxiety or insecurity.
I recently saw the film The Shape of Water. The main character is mute.
If the film did anything for me it showed me that words can be cheap...and actions are important.
Conversation IS important and so is communication.
There are so many ways to communicate.
The worldwide challenge is for people to talk TO each other not AT each other.
Get quiet, really listen.
Make your spoken words gems, not stones.
You may find you smile more, think less, relax more and observe A LOT more.
You'll find some challenges with quiet or not talking at all. Family, friends, and the cashier at the grocery store may not get it or may push back.
That's ok. Take it one moment at a time.
You'll learn all sorts of ways to communicate.
Smile, nod, give a thumbs up or thumbs down, wave, it all works very well.
You may be surprised at the responses you get and the effort others make to work with you and to pay closer attention, too.
I look forward to posting more on quiet, moving meditation, and this thing called life.
Maybe you, too, will find that quiet in your world.
Thanks for reading!
If you would like me to write for your publication,
train your staff or students in my unique moving meditation technique here's where you can find me: