Take a moment to close your mouth.
What do you hear? What do you see? How do you feel?
For my teacher training, we were instructed to do a full day of silence—no verbal communication for twenty four hours.
I was actually really looking forward to a day that I got an excuse not to talk to anyone. I have always appreciated the silence. My favorite part of the morning growing up was riding to school in my moms car because we would sit in silence the whole way there. The silence has always been a peaceful space for me. However, little did I know how much the silence would challenge me during a full day of zero verbal communication.
This day meant experiencing the sound of silence—only seeing and listening to your surroundings instead of contributing to it with your opinions.
I started my day by going to two yoga classes back to back. When I greeted by the instructor, I smiled and pointed to my mouth. The first guess she had was “laryngitis?” I politely shook my head no, and pointed again to my mouth attempting not to laugh.
Then it clicked.
Luckily, she had done a day of silence before as well, so she understood.
It was the first time in a yoga class that I didn’t get to say “namaste” at the end. But I quickly learned showing a smile and placing your hands at your heart is enough, and it honestly felt like enough to close my practice.
My car ride back home was strange. I never realized how much I sang in the car until I didn’t have the ability to do it anymore. Perhaps if I would have had someone in the car with me, they would have appreciated that as I am not the best singer.
When I went to the gym to go for a run, I figured that would be an easy getaway from having to talk to anyone. I was wrong. During my cool-down, the kid’s treadmill next to me suddenly stopped working. Appearing frustrated, he was explaining to me that the treadmill was broken. I tried to do my best to react with facial expressions, but my message wasn’t getting across. So, I simply stopped my treadmill, hopped off and motioned him to use mine.
He seemed puzzled and surprised and just a little weirded out that I wasn’t speaking to him. He asked if I was sure, and I simply nodded and gave him a smile.
Humbled, he thanked me, and I left with a smile.
I also never realized how much I talked/mumbled to myself before this day. There were plenty of times that I almost said something out loud just to myself…a few things just slipped out too…whoopsies.
As strange as it seems, when I was alone, I actually missed hearing my voice.
I even ventured out to the grocery store. Luckily, my roommates came with me to help me out. There was so much we wanted to talk about. I let her talk to me, and I gave my best responses with my facial expressions and hand gestures, but it wasn’t as gratifying as having a conversation with her. She could only handle being around the silence for a little while before she got annoyed and left the apartment. The silence can be intimidating sometimes.
There is something to be learned from a day of silence. As humans that have been graced with the gift of speech, we take advantage of it every day—using harmful, crude or just useless language. This is by far one of the most difficult tasks that I have done, but I have learned that I need to choose my words more wisely, speaking from the heart instead of from the impulse of the tongue.
Smiles, hand gestures and facial expressions go a long way as well.
Sometimes, it’s better not to say anything at all and just hold space for others and yourself.
I also realized how little time we spend in silence on a normal day. Silence is a place of peace, a place to quiet your mind and a place to relax. We spend so much time communicating. With Facebook, Twitter, Email, texting talking on the phone, talking to ourselves and others, we really don’t take the time to stop and just shut our mouths.
You don’t have to stop talking for an week like some monks do or even a full day to feel the silence. Perhaps, you take the morning before work or the evening after your day to silence yourself, relax your lips and enjoy the beauty around you.
Do you hear that?
That’s the sound of silence.
Author: Lisa Malinowski
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: author’s own