On Mondays I don’t speak. I began this tradition over a decade ago, stopped, and have recently resumed it.
When people learn of it I get a mix of reactions. Many are incredulous and wonder how I do it. How, with children and a spouse, family and friends, and multiple businesses, do I go an entire day without speaking.
The How is actually the easy piece. I play a day-long game of Charades, Evil Eye, loving touches and hugs, claps and snaps, silly faces, and written communication in the form of texts, emails, FB messages and notes. My daughters get frustrated by the end of the day. I’m sure Robin does too. Some shake their heads and think I am crazy (Spoiler Alert: I am). But I look forward to my fast from speaking. By Sunday evening I am ready to take a break.
To me the more relevant question is Why? Why do I choose to spend a day in silence.
I talk a lot. I’m an expressive, enthusiastic communicator. I am a story teller who loves to share. I’m also a Mom with school age children who bicker and beg, whine and chat, palaver and patter.
Inevitably I find myself talking – of course, it’s what we do. But I observed that many of my words were unnecessary. I was involved in conversations and discussions, gossip and griping. I was speaking in places I had no business speaking, adding words to conferences just to hear the sound of my own voice. I would intervene in Sylvie and Inez’s debates or when Robin would parent. I had suggestions, would coach, mentor and instruct in places I had not been invited. It all came from a place of good-will but really as I started my Silent Mondays much was revealed.
I think I’m a good listener. But you become a skillful listener when all you do is listen; there is no option for you but to listen.
There is a listening that comes before you listen. A presence that must be reached; a silence, an intuition, an attendance, a composure, a command of yourself in order to hear beyond the words of your companion. What is it they are truly saying? Perhaps they don’t know what they feel, where they struggle, what is their trouble. We winnow through words to find our meaning. We jump in when perhaps a pause would better serve. We listen without looking; hear without attending. We reply without ever having truly perceived what was said.
When I spend time in the company of people who will spend time with me during my silent days, I find they delve deeply into a reserved place within, a place not often accessed or acknowledged. They speak, knowing they are heard. They speak, and then listen cooly and acutely, to what they say. It is a journey of self-accompaniment. There is no rush because there will be no interruption or correction. They will not be overrun or dismissed. They summon an internal silence before they speak and hold their thoughts in space, listening to their internal wisdom and sifting through their piece/peace.
Silent Mondays allow me to implement this powerful function for others, and for myself. How many times have I formed my response in my head to an ambient comment or discourse. Because of my self-imposed fast I find the comment and the feeling behind it – feelings of judgement or superiority or fear or belonging – disappear. Later, I can scarcely remember what was said, which reminds me that my words likely would have added nothing to the moment.
The questions become, what purpose to my words serve? What is more powerful than presence? Whose need am I fulfilling?
And phrases come to me like: Choose your words wisely. Think before you speak. Speak life.
Is it inspiring? Kind? Loving? Necessary?
I walk through the fields, heard.
The Sunflowers stand tall and bright, tremendous reflections of these warming days. Tremendous reflections.
Finely fingered Carrot fronds extend and attend.
The Kohlrabi, Cabbage, and Kale sweep their leaves wide, silent sentinels, present witnesses.
They all speak in their silence. They broadcast in their bounty. They whisper the wisdom that comes from stillness.
Perhaps you won’t fast from speaking from an entire day. Perhaps your life isn’t set-up for that. But I challenge you to take a break from speaking for an hour. What might happen if you set yourself free from the need to speak?