Silent Community

We think we need to talk to create community. And is that really true?

Going to a weeklong silent meditation retreat, I thought it was going to be painful to not speak for a week. I came to know it as one of the deepest comforts I ever tasted.

I remembered that this is why I love dance. I remembered a night of Lindy Hop in Istanbul 4 years ago: The music soft was soft, his hands were soft, we were barely looking at each other. His tender and caring guidance on where to go next was one of the most beautiful conversations I ever had. A beautiful conversation that used no words.

This whole retreat was like that dance. Everyone on their own internal journey for a week, and everyone together. Meditating together in a big, spacious meditation hall from 6:15 am till 9:30 pm, eating every meal together, cooking, cleaning, chopping vegetables, for each other, together. The silence soft, the faces soft, eyes barely looking at each other.

On the evening of day 6, the teachers gave us a “talking exercise” to help us prepare for the real world awaiting. They told us to turn to someone and answer the simple question: What is one thing you enjoyed this week?

The answers came easy, the talking so difficult.

I didn’t want to get out of my silent world.

The moment the first few words were spoken I understood, I really understood, what happens when we talk.

Comparing.

I compared myself to how they talked, to how they didn’t talk, to what they said. I got jittery; I started planning what I was going to say when it was my turn to talk. I watched every word that came out of my mouth, completely sure it was the wrong thing to say, wishing I could stuff it back to the silence it came from.

I don’t know why we insist on talking so much.

After this weeklong meditation retreat, talking seemed to me for a long time, to be a truly painful experience.

Maybe we talk so much out of wanting to find our place in the world, forgetting that we came from a world that was silent, forgetting that silence is our home.

I came out of this retreat knowing I could love everything and everyone.

I came out of this retreat knowing love didn’t need any talking.

Reflection Questions

  • Which things or people do you belong to, without having to talk to them?
  • Who do you love deeply and continuously without talking much with them? Do you carry any judgement or guilt about your lack of talking? What would change, if anything, if you loved this silence between you instead?
  • How can silence help us love more?
  • Do you have any memories of beautiful silent conversations like that dance I had in Istanbul? Or memories of just you, listening to the silence somewhere? What did this feel like in your body?
  • What is one thing that you normally do with a lot of talking that you’d like to try doing in silence?

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