In May I have incorporated into my weekly routines a new awareness practice: I have consciously decided to make an effort not to talk on Fridays. As with many other experiments, certain things have not been planned and needed to be incorporated later. For example, I talk to Emilia and Lidia as they would not be able to communicate with me any other way (they are too little to read or to understand). I have also had limited conversations with my superiors at work, with a colleague that I only see on Fridays and with Dive Club people who I only meet on Fridays. Thus I have spoken to few selected people, but apart from that, there were no spoken words (although taken by surprise I did slipped a word now and then, especially when I picked up a phone).
There are several things that I have learned. Most important one is probably the fact that the ability to talk, the ability to express myself verbally is a source of a lot of joy in its own. I take speaking for granted. No-speaking is much harder than I thought it will be. It requires a full-time aware mind, and lots of self-control. Even after 6 Fridays that I’ve already had it continues to be hard work. The other thing I’ve learnt is that I use speech often (unconsciously) to shape the reality around me, to explain to others the way I perceive the world, to explain myself. Without the ability to talk, I had to listen and be much of a passive observer of the reality around me. Instead of an active and creative participant.
Most people, especially friends, were really supportive and understanding.
Initially, I have payed close attention to everyone and tried to write down or use body language to participate as much as possible with the usual chores and conversations. In time, the practice took a bit more in-ward turn and through non-speaking I have isolated myself a bit from interactions, and became more of a passive observer rather than participant. There is much more opportunity to have a dialog with oneself, to re-analyse certain patterns of behaviour and to slow down the fast and hectic flow of my life. I do really enjoyed all the silent Fridays, and as strange as it may sound, I am looking forward for them. I think it enhances my self-awareness and through the practice I have become more conscious of the power of words, and the impact they have on me, and on others.
Some people might think of it as somehow limiting or handicapping and difficult from a social interaction point of view. In reality, a silent day is not such a big deal for anyone. One can communicate the necessary things by writing them on a piece of paper, lots can be done through body language, and it actually enhances the one-to-one interactions somewhat. Silent day forces both sides to pay close attention, to look at each other, to analyse, to be conscious and aware about each other thoughts. I must add though, that there is not a lot of complex things that can be expressed non-verbally – thus, the exercise somehow simplifies life.
Often, others are taken by the silence as if it is contagious. I’ve had numerous accounts of people who also stop talking when they realised I’m not talking back. Some even started writing to me on paper instead of talking, as if they joined the non-speaking efforts themselves.
Buddhism and Zen is a process of understanding oneself. Who one is and what factors shape one’s life and one’s personality. Through practice and exercises one learns to pay close attention to oneself, the world around, and clears the mind from numerous illusions that we are not aware of. Through practice one gains control of one’s thoughts, actions and responses. Non-speaking alongside meditation and other forms of practice has teach me more about myself, my desires, limitations, and what shapes of who I am. I’ve been actively following various aspects of Zen over the last 12 months.