I believe that silence is golden.
Even in graduate school, when I was an adult and should have known better, I was asked to move away from my neighbor because we were talking during class. Though I should have been embarrassed, I was just used to it—I was always the child being moved for being “too social.” I couldn’t help myself—I liked to chat and meet people and it comforted me to know that my grandmother had been the same way. I struck up conversations with strangers when I was waiting in line and friends would roll their eyes, but of course, when they were too shy to complain about food at a restaurant, they asked me to speak up. Talking didn’t intimidate me. And, when I couldn’t talk to anyone, I would write it out—pages and pages which turned into volumes of journals. Most thoughts in my head felt eager to get out, past my lips or fingers—this was me, being me—always the big talker.
In May 2006, I was shifting directions and it was uncomfortable and sudden, like a hard jolt of a bumper car crashing into me—moving homes, ended relationship and upheaval at work. My life was moving forward and I felt like I was being dragged along like a dog at the end of a leash. I was lost in my various identities as a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, lover and co-worker and the responsibilities that come with each of those things. For the first time I can remember, I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to think about anything aloud—I didn’t want to hear my voice and I didn’t want to meet anyone; I didn’t feel curious or friendly. Even the pulse of New York—my home and the city that I love—had become too much.
One balmy Friday afternoon, I caught a train north and an hour later, I was delivered to an ashram in the foothills of the Catskills. Without hesitation, I fastened a round yellow button to my chest that read, “In Silence” and I stopped talking entirely for the next 3 days. There were thirty guests that weekend and only two of us were silent. Two of us were the outcasts, who ate alone, hiked alone and sat in the corner alone during lectures. I was surrounded by talking—introductions between strangers, comments on yoga poses and the low hum of ‘om’ but I stayed silent. As I heard different bits of conversation at meals, I didn’t feel compelled to engage; it was a new sensation, a new way to observe life and a new freedom. And I found that when my mouth was still, my mind was able to begin untangling the knotted yarn of my thoughts and through the quiet, the static lessened and I was able to regain my inner strength and resolve. Becuase through the silence, I was finally able to hear myself.
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