Experience The Silence

Relationship Design, Simplicity

silenceWe live in a world full of noise and distraction.
So much so, it can be difficult at times to live a simple life – and keep “first things first.”
But, how much of the distraction is created by ourselves?
Specifically, how much do we get in our own way?
And, how often do we speak simply to distract ourselves from ourselves?
This may sound a bit odd, but I believe it’s true.
Don’t believe me?
Try this.
Pick any normal day and try not to say anything.
That’s your assignment.
Look ahead in your calendar, pick a normal day, then on that day from the moment you wake up til the next morning, say nothing.
This will bring in to focus your view of communication, the words you choose, your motivations for speaking and the role talking plays in your life and relationships.
I realize that  it’s very likely you will have to speak at some point during the day, it is difficult to make it through an entire day without speaking at all. But when you do have to speak, immediately go back to silence. Find space to dwell on the words you chose and the motivations behind them.
This can be the greatest learning opportunity of this experiment.
After speaking and returning to silence, reflect on the words you chose, the attitude in your speech, and the internal motivation behind it. Or if you don’t speak but really want to, seek to discover why you wanted to speak in each situation.
Sometimes our words are motivated by love, gratitude, and genuine care. Other times it can be personal ambition, ego, pride, a desire to impress others or to fit in.
Look at the many ways we use our words:

  • to control what people think of us or to make sure people do what we want done in the way we want it
  • to cover-up or hide our mistakes or faults
  • to explain ourselves to others

“No matter what we talk about, we are talking about ourselves.” ~Hugh Prather

In a world addicted to noise, idle chatter, and meaningless words, silence can be very uncomfortable. But there is great life found in solitude — if only we’ll give it opportunity.
To conduct a 24-hour experiment of silence on your own, here are a few helpful tips from Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist:

  1. Choose a “normal” day. For example, don’t choose a day you already planned to be alone in the woods or driving a car alone for 8 hours. Choose a day where you will engage in normal relationships with other people. Avoid excessive external stimulation: MP3 players, radio, television, video games. Provide space for your thoughts.
  2. Inform your closest relationships. Tell your spouse and/or kids about your experiment. If appropriate, inform your co-workers. This will be helpful as the day unfolds—and a bit comical as they try really hard to get you to talk.
  3. Don’t be rude. Don’t be unloving. Just decide not to speak unless you are spoken to.
  4. Study the silence. Is it difficult? Uncomfortable? Do you feel an urge to talk just to break it? And if so, why?
  5. Notice your urge to speak. They will be far more common than you expect. Investigate your intention when you feel the urge. For what reason did you feel compelled to speak?
  6. When you do speak, choose words that are “few and full.” And then return to your discipline.
  7. After you speak, journey inward. Wrestle with the words you chose. Why did you choose them? What were you hoping to accomplish? And what were your internal motivations in choosing the words you did?
  8. If possible, choose a friend (better yet, your spouse) to do the experiment with you. You can send them this post for motivation and information. Afterwards, share your victories and your failures. Together, you’ll be able to process the day better.

Speaking is an important part of our life and relationships, but it can also be used to hide and distract. What’s behind your words?
Try this and see what you find.

Adapted from Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist
(photo source)