There are many times in life where silence is a gift. It might be a meditative moment, or it might be a feeling of accomplishment. It can be reflection, it can be thoughtfulness ~ the gift of silence is certainly one of our greatest treasures.
Big photo thanks and credit to my friend Elijah Gragg at Paraselene Studios for capturing the moment!
I am sure most or all of you have heard “Silence is golden” and also “If you don’t have anything nice to say, just be quiet”. In my 42 years on this roller coaster called earthly life, I have learned that both of these are priceless pieces of advice!
For those who know me, it is no secret that I love to talk! Beginning in the early elementary years, I would get in trouble at school for talking. By middle school I heard the phrase “they will have to nail her mouth shut in the coffin” being used by a teacher for her more talkative students (including me of course) and thought it was quite fitting (and funny)! Being an intelligent human, I found at an extremely early age what a resource communications can be, and I jumped on every opportunity to share knowledge as well as ask questions to gain more knowledge.
As an adult I have spent much of my time using and teaching communications. There are so many languages that we employ ~ spoken, written, body, musical, visual ~ and those languages can open doors or build walls. In my seminars for intentional communities, the main focus is always communication. Conflict is created as well as solved through it, and the lack of conscious communications can be devastating.
Silence is it’s own form of communication, and it truly is golden. Sometimes, it means we are listening. Other times, it may signal that we are thinking, or that we are confused, or that we are avoiding poor communication (such as saying something we may regret). I would point out here that there is a difference between being silent and ignoring someone! Silence is just one tactic that may be employed to ignore another, but the two are not necessarily interconnected. While we probably all have experienced someone using silence to avoid talking about something important, that is just a symptom of their avoidance and not to be confused with what I am referring to.
One of the things that I emphasize during my intentional community talks is that conflict is ultimately unavoidable when it comes to humans, and conflict resolution must be considered prior to conflict arising. Conflict is definitely tied to communications ~ but also is resolved through communications!
Many of the communities I have participated in employ a tactic of a talking feather/talking stick for group meetings. The idea is that only the person holding the talking item can speak. Generally this is done sitting in a circle. This gives everyone present the opportunity to listen to what is said, and also time to digest and think about what they would like to say when next it’s their turn. You would be surprised how many things you don’t find as important to say when you are in one of these circles! Someone might say what you were thinking, or someone might add a piece of information that completely changes what you were thinking, or you might even find that by the time the stick comes around you don’t feel so emotionally charged and have much less to add, or are able to speak calmly in a way that others can hear. It gives each participant the chance to feel like they are actually being heard, and it keeps emotional outbursts from stopping the flow of the conversation. I am not sure which indigenous tribes this was taken from, but it works extremely well for conscious folks who are working together.
Here in the US the term ‘politically correct’ gets thrown around a lot. While I appreciate the extreme efforts being made not to offend each other in this insane political and societal climate this country finds itself in, I was raised with manners that make it easy to keep from having what I like to call “diarrhea of the mouth”. If I don’t have something nice to say, I don’t say anything! I am polite when talking to other humans most of the time, and this has enabled me to have friends and acquaintances from all walks of life. My social circles transcend economical, religious, racial, gender, and any other boundary you can name. I am just as capable as the next person of saying something stupid, and I can’t say it never happens, but it’s much less when I am conscious about what I say and quiet when I am unsure.
I do cheat a little on this for comfort! I limit my time in ‘public’. I have a group of friends that are “snarky”, as in we talk shit with each other all the time for comic relief, but it’s with each other and not in a mean spirit. If I know that something I am interested in or participating in is viewed as fundamentally different than those I am around, we discuss different subjects. (My dad has heard the speech a million times not to talk politics with my friends…) As someone who is considered pagan and lives in the bible belt, you would think that I would have trouble from that ~ but my application of silence in necessary situations keeps me out of problems. Generally speaking humans have a tendency to be divided by the details. When it all comes down to it, we agree on much more than we realize!
The final point I would like to make is my use of silence when I have nothing nice left to say. I have never been good at pretending I am okay with a person when I am not. Sometimes, you find that another human’s words and deeds are so dynamically different than your own that you just can’t think of a single thing nice to say and no matter how you look at it, you don’t want anything to do with them. However, that doesn’t require me to speak ill to or about that person! I can just be quiet! In my experience people don’t always like this approach when they are on the receiving end of my silence, but it’s so much nicer than saying ugly things!
Being community-minded, I understand all too well the balance between individual and community, and also that it’s more than likely that in any community you will find someone you don’t want to be around. I have watched time and time again where people just retreat from community activities rather than being around the fire if that one person they don’t like is there. I have watched people work diligently to get someone ostracized from community for their individual issues with that person. I feel strongly that both of those choices are absolutely the opposite of consciousness and of community. The only exception is if the individual in question is harming others, in which case again it should be community communications that are employed to find a solution everyone can live with.
For those of you who recently read about my fire circle therapy, you might be interested to know that this post was also inspired by further dealings with the heavy that caused me to create the fire circle. Recent developments this week have me completely silent because I know I must live with anything I say or do, and on that particular subject everything that I feel I want to say or do are beyond things I can live with. Currently I have myself restricted to not talk about that subject at all. It took me two days to process enough to even get to where it’s not on my mind 100% of the time. I know that at the moment nothing I can communicate will have any productive bearing on the issue, and I know that my emotions concerning it would make it nearly impossible not to cause harm in how I express them. Perhaps one day I will share that story with you all. But what matters is not the personal details of my own challenges ~ we all have those larger than life situations that arise, the ones where you feel like you can’t breathe and can’t move ~ what matters is how I deal with them.