Connecting Through Silence

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Silence is a rare commodity these days — especially in the west. Around the clock, cars, trucks, airplanes, cell phones and all kinds of machinery disrupt the silence.

We have to deliberately seek and preserve opportunities for total quiet. It’s a worthwhile pursuit . . . otherwise we might forget the powerful, regenerative benefits of peace and quiet.

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature–trees, flowers, grass–grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…we need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa (1910-97)

Most people are “tellers.” They’ve got stuff they need to tell you. Often, it’s not so much they have something to say as they have to say something. It’s cultural conditioning. As a race, we’re out of touch with our silent center, so we compensate with an endless string of words.

Of course, language skills are important. Our development as a species was a direct result of our ability to cooperate, which was made possible by our ability to verbally communicate. Our relationship with words is neither good nor bad — it has just become out of balance.

The superficial use of words contributes to our alienation from one another. The words we use are often like masks . . . they shield us from who we really are. Especially when we are out of touch with who we really are, we use words — and lots of them — to compensate.

“Some people talk because they think sound is more manageable than silence.” – Margaret Halsey

When you re-enter the silence, you lessen the dependency for continual yak-yak-yak sessions. Comfortable with the silence, you’re no longer driven to get attention from those around you, and you let down your guard . . . take off your mask.

When you’re once again connected with the silence, it’s easier to connect with people in meaningful ways. When you’re coming from the place of stillness and the power of silence, you can connect with people at a place beyond your personal story and beyond their personal story. Instead, you can feel the connection at a deeper level where you are already connected . . . at a place where you have much in common . . . that inner place of quiet, stillness and peace.

“To communicate through silence is a link between the thoughts of man.” – Marcel Marceau (b. 1923) – French mime artist

Mums the Word

As a spiritual exercise, have you ever declared a day a word-free zone? The idea is to go all day without muttering a single word. Of course, it’s much easier if you are around people who understand what you’re doing. If you’re around just a few people, that’s even better . . . especially at first. After you get the hang of it, you will become comfortable even in crowds. But let’s face it, from the everyday perspective of the average person, a word-fast is just plain weird.

“I have always thought it would be a blessing if each person could be blind and deaf for a few days during his early adult life. Darkness would make him appreciate sight; silence would teach him the joys of sound.” – Helen Keller (1880-1968)

I experimented with this silent treatment often, especially in my twenties. I enjoyed an advantage of living in the Alaskan wilderness, so there was nobody around to comment on how weird it was. I’ve done it a few other times when I’m around people, and although it’s not as easy, it’s still a fascinating experience.

If you are silent with a friend or spouse, it’s interesting to experience how your communication doesn’t suffer. In fact, it feels like deeper, more meaningful communication can be accomplished without words getting in the way.

“Silence makes the real conversation between friends. Not the saying, but the never needing to say is what counts.” – Margaret Lee Rumbeck

Beyond Words

Taking a sabbatical from words is the fast track to learning the subtle intricacies of facial expressions, body language, gestures, tones of voice, and the hidden meanings often obscured by words. When your thinking process is all about words, your mind functions at a certain level. It is capable of so much more. When you agree to make words off limits, even for awhile, you’ll find your mind settling into deeper, more peaceful levels where you feel a closer contact with everyone and everything around you.

“True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.” – Sir William Penn (1621-70)

During my speechless days, I would carry a paper and pen with me for those rare occasions when a word or two seemed absolutely necessary. But it was rarely needed because other, more direct ways of communication soon came to the rescue when required.

“Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.” – Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

When you are silent, it’s easier for others to be silent. You both get the feeling it’s okay to be true to yourself without masks, games, or any kind of coercion involved. Without words, it’s easier to connect at a more fundamental level where nobody needs anything from anyone else.

“Silence is as full of potential wisdom and wit as the unhewn marble of a great sculpture.” – Aldous Leonard Huxley (1894-1963)

First, Listen Quietly

Being in touch with silence is about listening. It’s a rare person who actually listens from their deep connection with the silence. Many of the people I’ve met seem to listen only long enough to determine whether or not the ideas match their own opinion. As soon as there is anything less than a perfect match, the listening is pre-empted by busy mental activity.

Quickly, a rebuttal must be composed to voice as soon as there’s a break in the conversation. And, we all know people who can’t be bothered to wait for a break in the conversation. Their opinion and their words and their story is so important, they interrupt to inject it with great urgency. . . repeatedly!

Did you ever feel like saying this? “Pardon me for continuing to speak while you were interrupting.”

Whenever I catch myself interrupting, it feels good to know that I am aware of it, at least occasionally. That’s the first step to allowing a little more silence and a little less ego into the conversation.

“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.” – Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)

The ego-based, one-upmanship style of “communication” is superficial compared to the profound contact made by people comfortable with sharing the silence. Silence is more than an absence of words. Much more. It’s a characteristic of the great nothingness from which we all came and to which we return.

“Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time.” – Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

The Great Stillness

By “nothingness,” I don’t mean “empty.” It’s a state beyond things, beyond words, and beyond all attributes of physical reality. When you connect with this great stillness, it’s easier to connect with others in a profound way, beyond the limitations of ambiguous methods of communication . . . like words.

“Silence is the language God speaks, and everything else is a bad translation.” — Thomas Keating

Silence can be the answer to many kinds of problems. Many “problems” are nothing more than mental constructs. They are word play, repeated and multiplied by the intensity of emotion attached to them. Silence is beyond all this. It is beyond the realm of words. Re-connecting with the great peace of total silence helps provide perspective for all aspects of life.

“To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of, because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions.” – Deepak K. Chopra (b. 1946)

There’s a time and a place for everything under the sun . . . a time for frivolous chatter, a time for the precision teamwork made possible by articulate verbalization, a time for deep philosophical discourse, a time for the release of humor with jokes, puns, and silly word-play, and a time for deep silence.

“Silence at the proper season is wisdom, and better than any speech.” – Plutarch (AD 46?-120?)

When our dependency on words is tempered by our sessions of silence, the idea of conversation takes on a new dimension. In a word . . . profound.

While reading, did you choose to hear the relaxing instrumental music linked at the beginning of this article? To learn more about it, click here.

Listen FREE to the song samples below . . . chosen to enhance the ideas in this article.

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This is the end of the article entitled Connecting Through Silence published by Tupelo Kenyon on July 18, 2008 at 5:00 am | In Awareness, Communication, Discipline, Relationships, Uncategorized - Copyright 2007 - All rights reserved worldwide.

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