This Sunday March 4th at midnight will mark the beginning of my first self-imposed “vow of silence”. My goal is to go without speaking for 24 consecutive hours - every week - for as long as possible.


In preparation, I advised my family who was not terribly disappointed to hear that I would be holding my tongue. They did seem to think that it will be difficult for me though.


I for one, CANNOT WAIT!


The idea came to me after two specific events. First, a friend asserted that I should be spending more time in prayer and meditation. Second, after spending several hours in silence “by accident”, I was struck by how disruptive it was to “speak” again. This made me realize the extent of the peacefulness that being silent had created.


It isn’t all that surprising when you think about it. For most of us, speaking involves a lot more than just opening one’s mouth and pushing air past one’s vocal chords. Ideally (although sadly, not always) there is some thought that precedes it, the expression of which can require a great deal of mental and emotional energy. Words are cumbersome tools to wield but unfortunately they are still the generally accepted currency of communication.


Not to mention that, unless you are wearing a “Vow of Silence” badge, you are exposed to other people deciding that they need information from you NOW. You will naturally feel obliged to respond, regardless of your desire or ability. While answering a question may seem harmless enough, it is important not to underestimate the amount of effort that goes into listening, understanding and formulating a response - all before you even open your mouth.


Speaking also exposes you to a wide range of potentially disruptive responses. Take the seemingly inoffensive question “What’s for supper?”. Most of the time I don’t even know the answer to this question which already disturbs my calm significantly. If by some miracle I do happen to know what is for supper, I then hesitate to answer as I anticipate all the possible reactions, most of which are unpleasant. Even before I open my mouth to answer I am exhausted. How lovely to just be able to point to my “Vow of Silence” button and save myself the trouble once in awhile!


Have you ever noticed the surge of cortisol (stress hormone) that your adrenal cortex releases when your telephone rings? Of course you have! I have also observed that this reaction is elicited, in varying degrees depending on my level of concentration, simply by my attention being called by an outside source. Cortisol is a major player in the fight or flight response, a phenomenon with which we are all too familiar.


A much lesser known but equally natural phenomenon is the “Relaxation Response”, as elaborated by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School in his book of the same title. He discovered that our bodies are ALSO HARDWIRED TO RELAX when we feel safe. In other words, your body comes equipped with the knowledge of how to deeply relax given the right circumstances (think of the exquisite feeling one experiences right before falling asleep). It is this natural physiological response that I aim to elicit with my 24 hours of silence. For now, all I hope to “achieve” is a more peaceful body. The rest of it (peaceful mind, peaceful planet etc.) can wait.


I leave you with the beautifully wielded words of Hafiz:


CURFEWS


Noise

Is a cruel ruler


Who is always imposing

Curfews,


While

Stillness and quiet

Break open the vintage

Bottles,


Awake the real

Band.