Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Not Quite Monk-Like, but Interesting Nonetheless...

This week hubby and I are on vacation! Yay! More accurate, we are on STAYcation. Between our thin wallets and our very, very old dog, going out of town just didn't look possible. We decided instead to stay home and indulge ourselves in eating out, movies etc and, of course, not working.

As we were talking, it became clear that a big goal for both of us was to "detox" a bit--me from Jibber Jabber and hubbs from constantly surfing the web.

I have found, as an introvert, that a "successful" public speaking career will require conscious balance. After a week or two of public talks, I get so sick of hearing my own voice! So, as a way of detoxing, from many of life's common practices, hubbs and I decided to go silent. We made a few rules about when we could talk, how we could communicate etc. and began living without words. We weren't going for monk-dom. We could read modern novels and watch movies. We could do some charades and a few written messages were ok. For the most part, though, silence. Here's how it went:

My first reaction was mild panic. I didn't know how this would go, what it would look like. I didn't know how to function without language. It was surprising, however, how fast my mind adjusted and within hours watching people in movies talking seemed strange.

My thoughts were so LOUD at first. Jibber jabber, jibber jabber, bla bla bla! Stupid stuff, commenting on everything! But, there was no one to share my inner narration with and so there was really only one choice, let it go.

When things happened, like the strainer came out of the dishwasher all rusty, there was no discussion. No discussion meant no big deal. If you can't hash something out, all you can do is accept and move on...no blame, no remorse, no hang up.

I could not say "thank you" and I realized that was both good and bad. Bad because I could not express gratitude easily. Good because I noticed a feeling that can come with "thank you" is one of "superior" and "submissive." There was none of either in the silent world--only doing what needed to be done as it needed to be done.

No adjectives meant I either needed to physically share my experience, like yummy food, so that we could each have the same experience of "good" or "yummy." When faced with the choice of sharing tasty food, I kept my adjectives to myself and ate the food without conveying how it tasted to hubbs. Selfish? I wouldn't have given him any if I could talk, so why should I just because I'm silent! :)

I was surprised to see that the dogs didn't notice at all. All the yammering I do to my dog all day and she did not notice that it had stopped. In fact, I felt much more in tune with our dogs as we communicated in silence. I felt that my Whippet actually became more expressive but perhaps I was just paying closer attention. I felt more like them than I ever had--I understood them better as silent companions.

I learned that most of the things about which I would normally engage in a discussion, I actually didn't care that much. My hubb wanted to make the room cooler and indicated so as he turned the AC dial. Normally, I would have something to say--a need to discuss. With no words, I realized I just didn't have a strong opinion either way. It made me see that often, words= ego. I may not care abut something but if given the option to ruminate, to discuss, ego will not pass that up!

When we started cooking dinner, I felt more like primitive man. Communication around tasks like cooking is so helpful! Communicating around abstract tasks is equally difficult and important. Things like, "I'm going to the Grocery Store. Do you want anything?" was impossible to communicate without words. It gave me a strange understanding/appreciation of the origin of language.

I noticed the capacity for language to help us QUALIFY EVERYTHING! As children we are asked by everyone around us "Do you like this? How do you like that?" and we are programed that way to attach descriptions and opinions to every little thing. I learned that not everything requires a qualification! Somethings just ARE. Words, modern language, asks us to analyze and find a conclusion for every experience, belief, taste etc. Perhaps that is just overdoing it! Perhaps not every nuance of life requires my (internal or external) description and conclusion.

Without words, you have to either BE your expression or DO your expression. Gratitude is a kiss, not a word. Wanting to be close to someone becomes a physical closeness, not pretty language from across the room or via email. When I wanted hubby to know I missed him, I waited on the front porch for him to come back from walking the dog. At some point, I got hot and bored and I would have liked to go inside. But if he came back home and I was not on the porch, how would he know I missed him? Words are gone and we become our action. Not a bad way to live, with or without the silence!

My mind got quieter and quieter as the silence went on. Things like colors and the blooms on trees caught my eye. I wasn't too busy running my mouth anymore to notice these things and I like it this way. I was able to get very clear in myself about a few things, personal and professional, that I have not been able to get my mind around. After 24 hours of silence, it seemed so obvious.

I like words. I like talking. I like sharing abstract thought. I also like what I found in the quiet. I will now seek to find a balance between the jibber-jabber of modern life and the sweet silence of this staycation.

Tonight, we are going out to dinner and have ourselves a nice talk...with as many comfortable silences as possible.

4 comments:

Jen! said...

That is soooo cool! I love the idea of silence, I love your observations and conclusions about it - I may even have to try it myself!!! It actually scares me, which shows how dependent I am on the "jibber jabber" of life... all the more reason to give it a go.

Cindy said...

I think this is a fascinating idea-- I want to try it sometime. What, exactly were your rules about when you could talk and written messages?

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