Friends, Romans and Readers of my blog,
It has reached its apex! It has been done! I have completed my little experiment in which I gave up on using my mouth for speaking for twenty three days. There were ups, there were downs, and all and all it was rather surprising, uplifting, confusing, clarifying and most of all, productive. I’m going to give you the blow-by-blow of what went down over the next couple of posts.
If you have ever thought about taking a vow of silence and wondered what you might need to consider, then you’ve landed on the right heli-pad. So let’s jump right in, shall we? First things first:
WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO STOP TALKING, WHEN THEY HAVE THE ABILITY TO TALK?
The answer is simple:
It is a way to awaken awareness
Most of us fall through our days in a kind of trance-like state. We take the kids to school, drive to work, pick up the kids, do the chores, make dinner and the day is done. We go through all of these motions on autopilot, anticipating what will happen next before it’s even begun.
We don’t notice the details of what’s going on around us, because we’re so busy living in the past and the future that what’s happening right now simply becomes a technicality that needs to be dealt with in order to get to our next destination.
A little experiment:
When you drive from point A to point B, can you remember what you saw on the way when you get out of the car? Or were you so preoccupied that your brain just sort of edited in your surroundings, without you actually having exact cognisance of your ride?
By cultivating awareness you wake up to each moment of your life, to experience it fully and actively, and to snap out of autopilot. Awareness means you are present, you have clarity, you see broadly, you’re awake.
One of the ways in which you can cultivate your own awareness is to actively break routines in your life. The moment you break your routine in a significant way, you wake up to it. You bring yourself into the present. It becomes clear whether the action has value for you or not.
Taking a vow of silence is one way to give your life a bit of a shake and to allow awareness to flood into your life.
There are two types of Vows of Silence:
A private vow of silence
happens in a retreat setting or in a monastery. The person is removed from their usual day-to-day environment, and the vow of silence is often coupled with long hours of meditation, dietary restrictions and other forms of purification.
The person is cut off from all communication with the outside world: all stimuli is removed, phones switched off and other devices confiscated, offering the participant the opportunity to turn their intention inwards and to really look closely at themselves, their emotions and to delve through the deluge of stuff that usually comes pouring out in this kind of process.
The person is supported by other people who share their environment, and if for whatever reason they are required to leave, someone will accompany them to speak or converse on their behalf. It may last for any length of time, anywhere from a couple of days to a lifetime commitment.
A public vow of silence
does not happen in isolation. The person does not completely retreat from society, and they are still required to interact with their environment and other people – the extent to which completely depends on their needs and desires.
The aims of such a vow are slightly different to that of a private vow of silence, because it’s not a complete “silence” in the sense of ceasing all communication. It is most commonly used as a form of protest, or to focus attention.
For the past twenty three days, I took a public vow of silence.
WHY I DID IT:
When I first had the impulse to take a vow of silence I strongly considered going on the ten day Vipassana Meditation retreat in Worcester, (the Western Cape of South Africa) which is situated reasonably close by to where I live – and its free, which was a major bonus point.
In the end I decided against it. I’ve heard conflicting reports about the retreat, and to be honest, I realised that my primary goal was to be able to really sink down into my writing and to work through some of the more difficult material by cutting myself off from the world to some extent.
Besides for that, it’s simply something I’ve always wanted to try.
Since I live in a small town with minimal responsibilities, I reckoned that this was a good time to give it a go. I live alone, I don’t have children, pets or a television, no major responsibilities, I’ve stopped drinking alcohol almost completely and in the last year I have shaved down my belongings to a minimum. There are two or three people in town that I see once or twice a week for tea and chats. In many respects, I already live like a hermit. (My sister calls me monky-monk.)
Taking a vow of silence was a way to focus my attention on my goal, which was to finish my first draft of my manuscript.
WHAT I DID:
Initially I thought that I would still see clients (to make some money) and say my morning prayers (which are spoken) and obviously I thought that I could create a bit of a buzz on my blog about it. Blog posts would be a must.
Once I got going the praying out loud simply felt wrong (my mouth moved and sounds were coming out of it). So the prayers never happened.
I saw two clients in week one, and then postponed the rest till after my return to normal society.
Which leaves the blogging bit.
The wisdom of Bindu Wiles ascended upon me in my first blog post about the topic. Here is an excerpt from her free pdf called: How to write terrific content that will bring you subscribers, followers, and yes, cash.
If you want to write about the lessons you have learned in life, which of
course is a terrific idea, then you simply must abide by this principle:…
You have to objectify your suffering.
This is what makes good writing when you are writing about your own
So, if you are in the middle of drama, it’s not the most powerful time to
write about it, even though you feel like you could really speak your mind.
You cannot express the abstract into concrete form (that’s one of the
things that is happening cognitively in writing) while you are in it…
Your drama will be awesome posts LATER.
The woman knows her stuff. Writing about something whilst you’re in it is messy. You’re just indulging in the mucky underbelly of your own existence, which is useful later, but muddy and unclear at the time. It was a wise move to cut this short.
I then promised you on my blog that I would take pictures and post those instead, except that for some reason I couldn’t load the pictures from my computer onto WordPress! My apologies if you kept hanging for those pictures that never materialised.
In the end, my process ended up looking like this:
I took a Vow of No Vocal Chords. (Thanks Roxanne)
Since I wasn’t coupling my vow with anything else per se I decided to go with length rather than intensity. After some consideration I decided to do it for twenty three days, during the time that mercury goes retrograde, simply because this is considered a time of broken communication anyway and I wanted to be talking again by the twenty sixth to celebrate my friend Richard’s birthday party in Barrydale. (Secretly, it would be my coming-out party, you see.)
So for twenty three days I did not speak (except for the initial two clients and the odd reflex meowing at the cat). No words rolled off my tongue. No laughing. No singing. No humming. Things got fairly quiet on the mouth front. Not easy when you’re used to your own company to keep you company.
However, I emailed, sms’d, facebooked, twittered and spent time trolling around the internet, as I’m prone to doing. I communicated with people, but I steered away from talking about my process. Life happened, it just happened without me doing any speaking action.
I had my car fixed, I had a phone line installed, I bought coffees, lunches, airtime, put petrol in my car and even went to visit friends from time to time. I encountered a lot of people.
In one-on-one situations I wrote notes, made faces, gestures and dance moves to spell out the basics of what I was trying to convey. I’m an actress. It was actually quite fun.
In the process of doing this I sunk down into my writing like a brick into water, and became aware of some very interesting bits and bobs about myself. It was quite an enlightening experience.
In my next post I’ll spill the pros and cons of taking a public vow of silence. In the meanwhile, I’d like to point you in the direction of the King of the public vow of silence:
Stay tuned! I will post PART 2 this Thursday.