Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Monday, 26 November 2012

Voiceless: On the Value of Silence

I have a cold.  It crept into my life last Tuesday evening when I noticed that I was, well, snarky during meditation class.  (Sorry, Scott!)  I spent the next morning sneezing and sputtering.  By Friday, the nasty little bug was in full control of my respiratory system. With the help of large doses of hand sanitizer, tissue and Vitamin C, I muddled my way through two knitting classes on Saturday afternoon, in which I talked non-stop for over 4 hours.

Silly me.  By the time I arrived home, my voice was gone.  Completely, totally non-existent - not a whisper of sound could I make.  I'm sure the idea of me not talking was a shock to my family and friends, who are used to having their ears soothed by my dulcet tones, but it was tougher yet for me.  The thing is, I babble.  To the dog, to the cat, to Mr. DD, to myself. (I've also been known to sing, but we'll leave that one alone.)  I run ideas through my words, as many of us do.  I speak in a stream of consciousness style, where I make great leaps from subject to subject, using my own internal logic which often baffles others.  The possibility of me, not talking, is a rare event.

In most cases, speech is automatic. We talk, not necessarily to communicate, but simply to fill the space.  Silence is referred to as "dead air," something to be avoided.  When we're talking, we often don't hear, because we're forming our next string of words in our heads. We interrupt others (a bad habit of mine), because we anticipate what they'll say or because we assume that whatever we want to express is more important.  We don't mean to be rude, but that's how we can present ourselves.  The opportunity for real communication is lost.

I decided to take advantage of my situation.  If my voice was gone, if I could not talk, then I would be mindful of not talking.  What I learned is that, when words come with difficulty or not at all, they are more precious.  Unable to speak without making my throat feel worse, I found myself weighing the value of every word.  Was this comment really necessary?  Did my initial reaction to someone's words require a response, especially if I took exception to it?  Was I paying attention to what was actually being said?  I discovered that silence made me more thoughtful, more aware of the value of other ideas, of the enjoyment to be found when two people sit together in a room sharing the quiet, one knitting, the other reading, in peace.

If you're not used to sitting in silence with others, I recommend you try it, preferably without succumbing to a virus.  When we engage in active silence, it truly does become a virtue.

As a bonus, I was reminded that extended quiet stimulates creativity; ideas for knitting are coming fast and furious.  Now where is that pencil and paper when I need it?



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