February 23, 2015

Easing into Silence

When I go on meditation retreat, I often hear some version of these words: "You don't speak for three whole days? I couldn't do that." It's interesting that not talking is the deal breaker. There are many hard parts of a meditation retreat: judging mind, fear, doubt, and physical discomfort. On retreat, there's no place to hide. I get an honest look at myself and that's difficult territory. But not speaking, that's a gift.

Silence releases me from care-taking, performing, and focusing externally. Silence gives permission to look inward; to watch potential speech arise and discern my motivation. This gives me insight into daily conversation. Am I seeking approval? Am I merely filling space? Am I trying to be right? Or am I speaking truth in a kind, helpful way?

Karen Maezen Miller says "pure silence is the ultimate kindness." I think the word "pure" is important. We've all experienced the separating coldness of impure silence. Yet pure silence is a gift. It's the ultimate kindness. We're just not used to it. Silence isn't what our culture encourages or supports. But we can choose differently. In silence, we listen, we notice, we experience, no words necessary. There's beauty in the pure silence. There's wisdom, too. 

Imagine someone you dearly love. Now imagine being with that person in silence: taking a walk or watching a sunset or eating a meal. Purposeful silence for a short period. Ease into the silence and see what happens.


  1. I appreciate silence so much. When I go to on retreat I get the same question. "It's nothing for me" some might say. Silence is healing and hard to cope for some. Talking is disturbing myself from thinking. Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you. I can see that in silence. I grew up as an only child and silence is my freedom. So Joy, enjoy the silence! <3 / Agnes

    1. what a beautifully-written, honest comment. thank you, agnes!

  2. Replies
    1. There's so much wisdom in "Paradise in Plain Sight." That line was one of many that stuck with me, in my bones.