Setting aside a period of time for meditative silence often goes better with some advance logistics planning.
Before you start:
- If you are in a household with other people, tell them you are doing a silence practice so they know not to chat when you’re in the common areas of your home getting food or drink
- If there are people who might worry if they can’t get hold of you, let them know you are practicing silence between these hours, will have your phone on airplane mode and you won’t be answering email or texts
- Plan your food so you don’t need to go shopping or order at a restaurant
- If you make a mistake and say something, notice and let it go
Interacting with people:
- Generally if you avoid eye contact, people won’t try to engage
- Write “I am observing silence today” on a piece of paper to show someone if they try to engage you in speech or make it as a badge “In Silence”
- If you are out in public going for a walk or in nature, carry a notebook and pen to write if you run into a friend or neighbor
- I live in Nova Scotia Canada where people always say hello as they walk by and it feels rude to not engage; a smile usually does it
- Notice if you are pre-planning what to do or say if someone rings the doorbell or … and let that go. Mental silence is more important than the vibrations in your vocal chords.
- Silence is an opportunity to notice habits and compulsions of the mind
- Talking is a way to relieve internal pressure and distract ourselves
- Notice when the urge comes up to talk or engage with other people
- Maintain mindfulness of your actions and activities like moving and walking
- Eat in silence without distractions like reading or watching glowing screens
- Maintain mindfulness of your body, breath, thoughts as much as possible
Levels of silence
- Decide ahead on the level of silence you plan to keep (hint: there is no moral high ground, choose what you are comfortable with and that is a bit of a stretch then just do your best)
- Not speaking out loud or digitally (no email, texting) is the minimum
- Write a brief note to someone only if necessary
- No reading, watching or otherwise taking in ideas, even contemplative ones
- Some people journal during silence, some don’t
- Silence of thought where you stay engaged with witnessing and letting thoughts be in the background like we do in meditation
- No interaction visually with other people, no eye contact or smiling
- Constant practice of meditation in the mind
- Most people will notice boredom, sleepiness, restlessness so don’t worry if those come up; do a guided practice, go for a mindful walk, sleep
This is a day of practicing silence and an opportunity to both rest and to learn about ourselves. Kindness is always first. If you notice you are judging yourself for how you are doing, see if you can let that go and be compassionate with yourself.
We give ourselves a great gift when we set aside time for silence. Enjoy!