Day 4: Honor Silence
You know, the seemingly awkward pause after just meeting someone. The simple hand shake. Nice to meet you. Eyes make contact. Silence. A question. A response. More silence. Do you move along or say something else? How long can silence go without being awkward? Sip your drink. Look around. Ask another question. Relief the silent moment is over.
Why do we resist silence?
Silence sometimes carries shame. Be quiet, sit still. Don’t tell. Shut up. This is not a healthy silence. In fact, in these times we ought not be silent–injustice, pain, denial of truth or experience. To be quiet in those times would dishonor silence, and dishonor ourselves.
Inherent in silence are risks of vulnerability. We wonder what is polite–If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything it all. We wonder if we are making assumptions about another person–Does he want to continue this conversation or is he in a hurry and needs to leave? We wonder if we will say the wrong thing–How far along are you in your pregnancy?–and the woman is not pregnant.
When we truly honor silence, we do not rush to judgment, we allow the time needed to think, assess, connect with ourselves, and we move forward from a grounded and thoughtful place in our response to others.
You see, it is when we dismiss the silence for awkwardness that we claim the space with a verbal barrage of insignificant chatter, wrought with assumptions, self-centered judgments and falsities…all for a few moments of perceived discomfort. Is it worth it? Is it working?
How often, in a heated discussion with a partner, do we ask a difficult question and give no time for a response? Consider these two examples:
What, about me, do you find attractive?
In a knee-jerk response, we will often continue talking, replying with statements like, I know I am not the most beautiful person, or You always comment on my…, or I really love my…. In truth, giving no opportunity for your partner to reply.
Why did you spend that much money yesterday?
When we do not honor the silence in waiting for a response, we react in judgement, saying, You just think of me as a money tree, or You always spend money on needless things, or You’re never going to have enough in your savings.
Silence, in these discussions, is truly significant. When we ask a meaningful and important question, we ought to give it the opportunity for a dignified response. What if your partner has very good, loving, and decent replies to your questions, and by rushing to judgement, you’ve shut him/her down? Do you really know what he is going to say? Do you really know she is going to dismiss you?
With silence, we are given the space, time and ability to arrive in the moment.
In an encounter in a business meeting, or a social gathering, or even at the grocery store, find comfort in silence, knowing you are connecting with another person. Greet politely. Make eye contact. Engage your body, your mind and your spirit to make a true connection, not simply fill the silence of the space.
In communication with loved ones, ask meaningful questions, and wait patiently for the response. It does not mean you will always agree or enjoy what it is they have to say in return, but it does mean you are available, engaged and prepared for anything.
For today, in this journey toward mindfulness, honor silence. Stay curious about when and why it might important. Wonder why you may rush through it. Allow yourself to feel your arrival in the moment when you give yourself the silence to think, to be, to know your truth.