On my first day of silence last Wednesday, I opened up the hatches on the boat letting the crisp fall air and sun come in. It was a perfect way to start a “Day of silence” 5 minutes after settling into my morning meditation, I was startled and distracted by unknown voices outside on the dock. I glanced over and noticed 2 men standing a mere 15 feet from my meditation cushions. “Did they see me sitting here cross-legged with my plastic mustache meditation glasses on?” I realized that even if they did, there would be no way that I could explain myself at this point to them – it was a “Day of Silence” and I could not speak. I closed my eyes and sunk into the silence.
As a part of the Wild Card suggestion this month, I was given the challenge of taking one “day of silence” each week. When I heard this suggestion, I made an audible sigh of relief – what a pleasure and opportunity that would be.
The concept of what silence is and what it can bring to individuals has always interested me. I actually spent over 2 years creating audio pieces and photographic portraits exploring the role that silence has played in our lives. The project was called “Speaking of Silence”. Through that exploration, I interviewed nearly 100 people, listened and learned about what silence meant to and for those individuals. During those 2 plus years of examining the concept, I do not think I ever spent one full day being completely silent myself. I thank Amy this month for asking me to explore what the concept means for myself in meditation practice and I thank Agnes for pushing it a bit further.
Each mediation session this month itself has been training in a way for these extended periods of silence. Practicing meditation has allowed me to create a silent space for my thoughts and feelings. I’ve used this space to focus on the present moment, becoming aware of the time itself between my thoughts, actions, and speech patterns. This process has been great to do alone – it has helped me become more still and slower – not in work or my daily activities but in my reactions to others and my environment. Giving me the time to really observe and respond accordingly. I am finding that taking the time to be silent even outside of meditation practice is helping with this as well. So throughout the month even on “non days of silence” I am making time each day to be silent. (organizing, walking, writing, observing others)
But what would happen if I brought my silence out into the world? What would a normal day be like with the added silence? How would others react? How would it make me feel to not be able to communicate easily? This week Amy asked me to delve into how I felt in my body, alone and in social situations. I am taking my days of silence to experiment with what it feels like to hold the space in a busy coffee shop, in a grocery store, down town and in conversations with friends.
Below are some of the highlights of my first speechless days. I will say I was not completely successful in not speaking or uttering a sound entirely, I did said “SORRY” involuntarily when I bumped into someone by mistake and I made some exclamations to myself during the day – once when I accidentally hit the curb parallel parking “Yikes!” also at one point I found myself whistling. And even though I gave up my phone I did not give up technology or communicating all together. I was lucky enough to schedule 2 meeting free and telephone free days but I did still need to send emails for work.
Organizing/cleaning – I am more focused and more efficient
Emailing/working: I am more efficient when I am not taking phone calls
Writing: I am taking more time to write what I feel rather than worrying about what the words sound like together.
Walking: I have been walking alone and without excess sounds, music or calls. I have enjoyed the physical environment more.
Communicating: I mostly communicate through written notes in a small book and on post it notes. I sometimes “mouth” words as well or “mime” an action. I did this while doing errands and grocery shopping. When people noticed that I was not speaking they treated me differently – they started speaking really quietly and also slowly? Hmmm… because I was silent I guess that meant I was also unable to understand or hear them? Some people wanted to write return notes to me rather than say anything out loud. One lady decided that I was deaf and started signing to me in sign language – I shrugged my shoulders not being able to tell her I didn’t understand sign language and just pointed at my shirt that stated “Day of Silence”. She continued signing to me.
Body motions: I noticed myself using my hands to talk (even more so than usual) I gave the “thumbs up” and “ok” sign so many times that I started to feel like a cartoon character. I also felt strangely like a mime when I realized that not only was I silent but my “Day of Silence” T-shirt was black and white.
I noticed myself smiling A LOT. I really did not want to appear rude or as if I was offended by anything the other person said by not speaking to them.
Strange occurrences and/or observations:
- I got into a note conversation with the old man in a coffee shop – he spoke to me in riddles and I tried to answer him in written pictures – I am not sure who was more confused or amused in that interaction.
- I started a race with a 2-year-old in the park who seemed to understand my silence more than his parents.
- I had a telekinetic interaction with a squirrel.
- I did not miss phone conversations one bit.
- I realized how silent we are already in our communication with eachother
- While observing my own communications – I realized I am more connected online through my writing, emails, and texts almost more so than my face-to-face meetings? I am more honest and open in my writing than my face-to-face conversations.
- I appreciate the time in between the responses of written notes, text messages or emails.
- I tried to help a guy with a mustang charge the dead battery in his car. I could not convince him that he had connected the cables incorrectly. I am not sure if he didn’t want to “listen” to me because I was writing him notes or because I was a girl?
- I got into the best conversation I have ever had about “truth, loyalty, and acceptance” with a barista. The entire conversation took place on post-it notes.
- I am good at playing charades – I can now order breakfast in charades.
I am thinking of instituting this “Day of Silence” at least once a month for the rest of the year, if can not schedule weekly sessions as I move forward. I can not tell you how many benefits are coming from this experiment. I can not tell you today anyway, I am still learning. But I will try talk to you about it tomorrow! Please share your silent experiences with me.
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