So my very first 24 hour vow of silence (spoken AND electronic) was a very simple and satisfactory experience that I only broke twice:


  1. During Frances McDormand’s acceptance speech for best actress at the Oscars, I couldn’t help cheering when, at her request, all the female nominees in the theatre stood up.

  2. When my son invited me to go to see the movie Black Panther, my enthusiasm was such that I immediately accepted; aloud. We saw it the following day of course, as the whole point of the exercise was to avoid stress; even the good kind.


One of my favorite things about this self appointed task is that it did not require any packing. In fact, there was very little preparation or equipment involved at all. As an exercise in OMISSION it was as light and spontaneous as the breeze.


Nor did I have a lot of expectations; either for my performance or the outcome. Those of you who read my previous blog may recall that my only goal was to achieve the “relaxation response”; the body’s completely natural ability to relax in the absence of stress. Which I did - several times ;-)


After a few hours of reading my favorite book in the whole wide world and other regenerative, quieter than usual activities like meditating, I noticed that I was tired and so I sat down to rest. After a few moments of sitting quietly I noticed myself noticing the blinking of my eyes and I knew then that I was relaxing. As I watched the branches of the tree outside my front window moving in the breeze for FIVE minutes, I knew I was relaxing. When I noticed the colour of the sky beyond the branches I forgot about everything else, including my goal of relaxing. Finally, when I scanned my body for pain or discomfort and found none, physical or otherwise, I knew I had achieved the relaxation response.


Admittedly I did experience some anxiety at times about the fact that I wasn’t “doing” anything. I would imagine everybody else busily executing their important and numerous tasks and momentarily feel insecure about the validity of my relaxation exercise. And on a weekday for goodness sake!


A huge benefit of quiet and stillness however is that it heightens your ability to DISCERN which of your thoughts and beliefs ACTUALLY belong to you and which of them are artefacts of outside influences such as upbringing, society, the collective unconscious etc. In my opinion, the “vintage bottles” and the “real band” to which Hafiz refers in his poem Curfews (see below) represent one’s TRUE thoughts, one’s TRUE feelings, one’s TRUE beliefs.


Therefore I was quickly able to recognize those insecure thoughts as imposters and banish them before they could do any real damage and THEREIN lies the value of the exercise. Without discernment, the mind becomes an empty stage upon which any drama can be played and this wastes valuable time and energy.


It is as important to notice when you are relaxed as it is to notice when you are stressed. We are typically very conscious of our stress, which could even artificially reinforce it. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much you already relax. Or you could become aware of ways in which you are hijacking your relaxation response before it has a chance to deploy. This awareness (as all awareness) will make it easier for you to become a more active and thoughtful participant in your own behaviour.


In my previous blog I stated that I hoped to repeat this exercise every week for as long as possible. While I may very well repeat it again and again, I have decided that for now it is more important to be grateful to have had the opportunity to try it even once.


But since once is never enough with Hafiz , I leave you for a second time with his poem “Curfews”:


Noise

Is a cruel ruler


Who is always imposing

Curfews


While

Stillness and quiet

Break open the vintage

Bottles,


Awake the real

Band.