”The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is so we mightlisten more, and talk less.” -Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, 7.1.23
I trust that you are all keeping well during these scary months with this Covid-19 Pandemic. Hope you’re all staying in, staying safe, and staying sane.
This blog is about expressing the experience I had in re-attempting a ‘Seven Days of Silence’ challenge (this time, it was purely self-initiated); which ended just over a week ago from today.
Here, I will aim to succinctly write an account of both of my experiences/attempts at ‘Going Dark’ for an entire week, explain the reasons & benefits, as well as the pains & challenges of sacrificing one’s ability to speak, for such an extended time.
Why take a ‘Vow of Silence’?
Throughout the centuries, people of various faiths, spirituality (and those who aren’t spiritual in any way!) and religions have exercised such a commitment, for a variety of reasons. Monks & nuns/Sisters took a Vow of Silence to hear the voice of God more loudly, Hermits went into the wilderness and there had no reason to speak to anyone, and could not utter a word for years at a time- as they were seeking ‘Blessed Silence’ far away from the noisy mess of settlements. Others take the Vow of Silence to simply have the space and time to ‘go within’, to face their Shadow, or to contemplate a difficult problem. These are just a few of the many reasons why someone would decide to practise silence, for any amount of time.
My personal experiences:
In November 2018, I was given a bet/challenge to hold my tongue for 5 whole days- by my Ship Manager, during my 2 months of Volunteering with ‘Sea Shepherd’, in Florida.
As I like to be both confident & poetic, I furthered the bet to seven days of silence. My over-confidence was to be my downfall. Not only was I obliged to give my Media-Manager a call on the third day; but my Ego overcame me on the Friday and I accidentally blurted out a dry/sarcastic comment during a deck clean-up. Only one crewmate heard me, and said she’d keep it a secret. But my honour wouldn’t allow it, so I emailed my Ship Manager to admit defeat- but he allowed me to fulfil the 7 days anyway, and called off the bet. What a learning experience!
Now that Covid-19 has disrupted ‘Normality’ enough to present a new opportunity (without having to go to a day-job), I decided to give myself a ‘2nd Chance’, while being ‘stuck’ at home at my dad’s place, in London. Thankfully, but with some difficulty and stress, I prevailed!
When Cato was told that some people blamed him for his silence, he replied, ‘Better they not blame my life. I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.’ –Plutarch, CATO the Younger, 4
Benefits of taking a Vow of Silence.
Personally, I found a multitude of practical, philosophical, psychological & even Spiritual benefits to taking this ‘Vow of Silence’, which kept me to my conviction- and has made me desire to do it again, one day.
This list of benefits is definitely not exhaustive- but they are the most relevant ones which myself & many others have experienced-, and I’d like to share them with you.
- –Enhances focus & attention span,
- -Improves Patience,
- -Reduces Blood pressure (lowers stress, at least),
- -Boosts Creative & Intuitive Thinking,
- -Enhances the effectiveness of all 5 ‘physical senses’,
- – Clarifies good thought, clarity of judgment
- Develops the ability to communicate more effectively, rather than simply ‘verbally-vomitting’.
Philosophical and/or Spiritual Benefits:
- -Develops clarified thought/discernment,
- -Strengthens our ‘relationship with ourseves’,
- -Develops better ‘Impulse Control’,
- -Heightens connection to our ‘Inner/True Voice’- takes power away from the Ego and ‘Monkey-Mind’. Each moment becomes a passive meditation/mindfulness exercise.
- -Self-healing & clearing of emotions,
- -Strengthens emotional Resilience,
- -Allows us to accept & even befriend our ‘Shadow’ (the dark aspect of our nature).
- Boosting gratitude for the relationships we have with each other, and for being alive- along with the ability to express ourselves.
‘Silence is the lesson learned from the many sufferings of life.’ –Seneca, THYESTES, 309 .
Challenges & Difficulties
Although the benefits were many (and decidedly outnumber the constraints), there were several hurdles and obstacles to overcome. The main one being family members, oddly enough!
- Family being difficult/not respecting boundaries and not being ‘chill’ etc.
- Not being able to disagree or protest/assert boundaries,
- Not being able to text/call friends and family
- Not being able to collaborate/cooperate with other like-minded people, where speech is necessary.
- All other inconveniences, where the ability to share thoughts & feelings through speech is made easy through the use of language.
- Confronting and working through all the inner pain, emotional baggage and darkness (much of which was simply waiting for the dark storm clouds to blow over).
The way I overcame these obstacles, was applying my study+training of both Stoicism and Zen! Along with a sense of humour, and emotional resilience. Certainly a topic for another blog, another day! The silence helped to offer the clarity of discrimination/judgement to practise these virtues.
My personal ‘Rules’ for carrying the challenge were simple:
- No communication through the use of voice for anyone, at all. Including texting (unless it was absolutely necessary/an emergency).
- Minimal body/non-verbal language.
- Give friends and family a ‘heads-up’ (even though some may disagree, forget or disregard boundaries).
- Be patient and compassionate/courteous to others and oneself.
With the right preparation, ANYONE can attempt such an exercise for self-growth! Even if it’s a bank-holiday weekend, for a few days.
All it takes is the will and conducive environment. So, if you’re curious about the benefits which I have listed above (and any other benefits you may have heard about), please give it a shot! You will be glad of it.
I will soon be shooting an ‘informal guide’ video-blog (vlog) with some insight and instruction/advice of how you can conduct your own ‘journey inwards’ through taking a Vow of Silence.
Until then, farewell, dear Reader!