What's Awkward About Silence
What can possibly be awkward about silence?
It isn’t the silence that is awkward, it’s your thoughts, that you notice in silence, that are awkward. It is the mental process of figuring out how to stop the nagging voice in your head asking what is it that you need to say to fill the void, to impress, to impart information, to collude, or to invite so-called friendship.
Process the Awkward Feeling
Here’s the good news: If you feel awkward when faced with silence or a ‘pregnant pause’ in the conversation then you can welcome that awkwardness as a healing opportunity – It’s Step One of the Choose Again Six Steps to Freedom! Simply proceed through the rest of the six steps noting that THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE SILENCE IT’S ABOUT YOU. Feel the feeling. Remember the first time you felt that same way. What did it say about you that you felt that way as a young child? Forgive yourself for your mistaken belief. Then check back in with your feelings in the memory and in the current situation.
You know you have made peace with silence when the term ‘awkward silence’ no longer applies. After a while it will be welcomed as means for communion rather than communication.
One of the most intimate experiences you can have is to share silence with someone while watching a sunset or gazing at a great view.
Silence is Golden
There is an Arab proverb written on the mantel of the fireplace in the dining room at Les Labadous:
“Don’t open your mouth to speak unless what you have to say is more beautiful than silence.”
If silence is so beautiful, then why it is so difficult for us to maintain silence at El Cielo, at Les Labadous and other workshops or retreats?
Hafiz offers one answer:
"Is not most talking a crazed defense of a crumbling fort?"
We might not like to admit it, but talking simply defends our ego’s attempts to convince us that we are the separate beings that we have self-created. The persona we present—the skiing, hiking, successful lawyer, the sporty academic, or the artsy, loving parent—is just the icing on the ego identity that we consciously or subconsciously believe to be a vicious, nasty piece of work. We use conversations to tell others who we think we are and to collude with who they think they are. When we know who we Truly are there are no words needed. There is nothing to convey. Your essence and mine are the same. What is there to talk about?
Silence is another tool in the Choose Again toolbox, just as important as the Choose Again Six Steps to Freedom, because it provides a means by which we can notice our thoughts and feelings—they are not buried beneath needless chatter so they can be challenged and processed. It can help to strengthen the decision-maker.
Use Silence to Strengthen the Decision-Maker
Deciding between silence and the ’need’ to talk is one effective way of strengthening the decision-maker. Catch the thought “I need to speak now” then engage the decision-maker first. Run through the THINK formula before talking: Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Important? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? And is it more beautiful than silence? Can it be communicated without being spoken aloud? I can choose to be silent. Choosing to stay quiet is a choice to listen to the Self rather than the ego, which uses words to further its cause.
Next time you are in a social situation pay attention to what you talk about. Make a note of your conversations and later figure out what roles those conversations played. Did they confirm the ego identity that you made up or did they bring you closer to knowing the essence of your being? What are the beliefs that were confirmed or denied? Who do you think you were getting to know? Another ego or the essence of another? If you learned something new - what was that information for? What does that information confirm or deny?
Dig deep and discover the meaninglessness of most conversations and the way they maintain the belief that we are separate beings. Choose the communion offered in silence instead of the distraction offered in chatter.
As Poonja frequently reminds us:
Simply be quiet
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