Mindful silence

I took this photo last night. It make me laugh. It looks like Noah is saying, "What did you say to me?!"
I took this photo last night. It looks like Noah is saying, “What did you say to me?”

Probably the biggest thing that has brought me peace in family relationships, is to not give my opinion unless it is asked for (or if I feel that what I have to add is needed)….and I’m not talking about the needing to speak that comes from the urge to put in my two cents or just to be a part of the conversation, but the need that is from that deep place that knows when to speak.

It’s amazing how many times my opinion isn’t being asked for, and isn’t needed or wanted, and how peaceful it is to just be OK with what is happening around me.  Its been a big week for that, and a wonderful week, at that.

I’ve been with a lot of family members, and have at times felt an almost urgent need to be a part of things by talking. It’s what I did for years. I used to have to be in the middle of everything; every decision and discussion, and those conversations, and the new ones that were constantly springing up in my mind, stayed with me day and night. My mind never shut up, never turned off, it just kept chattering away, whether with people or not, and it always wanted to be heard and expressed. I always had to say something, and this way of living left me physically and mentally exhausted.

During this past week, when I’ve been with family and felt that old urge to “be heard” come up, I’ve  asked myself the question, “Is what you have to say really necessary?” and the answer has usually been “No”.  I’m not talking about a stony or pouting silence either. That is really not silence, it is loud emotional  energy, many times more so than speaking. Debra Saum talked about this in one of her blogs regarding animal communication, and made the point that sometimes people are very noisy (and animals are aware of this) even when they aren’t saying a word. We’ve all been with people like this, and maybe have been people like this; either too afraid to speak (but actively engaged in constant, unhappy mental dialogues) or refusing to speak, causing everyone around them/us to feel uneasy.

Being mindful of my speech (and thoughts) has made me more present when I am there with family members, and when I am not there, I don’t carry them with me, so I am more fully present at home with Jack and the animals, and in my work.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” Plato


23 thoughts on “Mindful silence”

  1. Mary, thank you so very much for your post today, it really struck a nerve with me as I go through some tough times with my sisters after the death of our mom. You are so right about silence being awfully loud sometimes but poignant and welcome at others, depending upon how it is offered up. Thank you for pointing that out and discussing it and showing that this stuff is universal, it’s not just happening to ME.

  2. Thanks for a wonderful post and fabulous picture. I think we can tell who is in charge! I remember reading about a character in an Anita Brookner novel who was always waiting for the other person to finish speaking so that she could have her say. She gave the appearance of listening, but in truth was not. How often I’ve been guiltly of that. Real listening — and not speaking — is a choice and a gift and a discipline. It requires awareness. I agree: its wonderful payoff is being present in the moment. Thanks again and I hope everyone has a lovely weekend.

    1. perfect example Charlotte….I too have been guilty of that (especially with family) and then found I left the conversation feeling empty (probably because I missed half of it),,,love to you this beautiful (rainy here in upstate NY) Sunday

  3. I believe silence goes along with attitude. I can be a loving, warm person sitting in silence or a cranky, grumpy one sitting in silence and give off very different energy and vibrations. As Jill Bolte Taylor wrote, ‘we are responsible for the energy we bring into a room’ and silence can be a very big part of that energy. Sometimes it is hard to think clearly and to be fully centered when dealing with stressful issues, just when we need it the most! Happy fall weekend to all!

  4. Mary,
    Thank you again for a beautiful post. I’ve used both types of silent energy..In the future I hope to only use silence to bring loving energy into a situation. Have a wonderful weekend.

  5. Mary, this is a very good reminder of what I hope, I’ve retired from. Growing up, I wasn’t really allowed an opinion; they were of my parents, whom I greatly respected. When I got married, I didn’t have an opinion; whatever opinions I had were those of my husbands. And then one day he died and that’s when I came into my own and had opinions. I didn’t mind sharing them with whoever would listen to me. And then I got older and ‘tirered’ of people’s opinions, including my own and now, when I’m tempted to express an opinion, because my grown children and others really aren’t interested in it, I ask myself, is it worth the effort of getting involved. And usually it isn’t. There is a lot of anxiety around being heard in a family, I find. I trust your family emergency wasn’t of an insolvable nature.
    SandyP in Canada

    1. I love your words Sandy, “And then I got older and ‘tirered’ of people’s opinions, including my own…” I so agree with you, thank you and have a beautiful Sunday
      All is well with my family…a medical situation with my mother that is going to require a big change in her life but she keeps saying, “This happened for a reason.” and is very peaceful inside.

  6. Thank you for this post, Mary. I have often felt so good about myself because i managed to keep my mouth shut when with family, but realize now I was really not doing it in a kind and meaningful way, I was still sending out the same message as if it had been spoken. And I’m sure it was received that way as well. I will try to be much more mindful, literally, in the future, and have my thoughts be genuinely loving. As I do genuinely love my family, just don’t like them much sometimes.

    1. What true words you spoke Sally! …when I read them I thought, “I feel the same way about myself, I do love who I have become (inside) but sometimes I don’t like myself very much”

    2. Your comment – I was still sending out the same message as if it had been spoken – really resonated with me. I tend to be quiet (silent) around family – like why bother to talk type of thing. Again – my energy was still so negative as if I had spoken what I was thinking. Boy oh boy – did you make me think about my silence!

  7. This is a very helpful post for me today, and I really appreciated the comments from others too. As I sit here early morning, husband at the gym, the two dogs fed and napping (silently, but for a few deep sighs) and only the sound of the dryer drying, I am just drinking in the silence. To have my dogs so close, giving off their perfectly contented silence for me to soak in I realize that sometimes with a friend, just to sit together in silence can be the best conversation of all. Happy weekend everyone!

    1. I have found the same thing to be true Susan…even this week with my mother (she is not talking much right now) and yet she is very quiet inside as well. As I sit in her presenceI don’t feel like I need to say anthing either and it is lovely

  8. Such a great topic, the language of families. This is a perfect place to practice Detachment….and it requires a lot of practice ! Big families have big family dynamics that I think stem from being a child in competition for the limited attention opportunities of the parents. That’s the way it seems to have played in my big family. It takes some getting used to , the practice of silence. So often it is viewed with suspicion, but as we all know, the energy of intention is what is transmitted, so staying soft and open is very important.

  9. I am experiencing something similar to Mary’s and today in one of my Course in Miracles emails I received the following posting. This was a question posed to the blogger and her response. This really resonated with me. The thoughts or concepts could be used in so very many situations.

    This was the posting/question and the response to it………..

    Ask: How do I deal with wanting to help without seeing it as real?

    “…You wrote somewhere that, at one point on your path, politics kept dragging you back into the dream. I’m totally like that, too. Thankfully I don’t get stuck there like I used to. The emotional pull is nowhere near as strong. But it’s still hard for me to see the corruption and say it isn’t true. It’s hard for me not to get involved somehow. Maybe it’s because the town I live in is a political nightmare. I feel it’s my responsibility to get involved! How do I deal with this sense of wanting to “help” without seeing it as real?
    (By the way, I must admit I don’t know if I am actually helping even if I think I’m trying!)” – SD

    The first shift that happens for students of A Course in Miracles, often unconsciously, is that you see every situation as a classroom to learn of peace. This turns every situation from an end in itself to a means for peace. If you want inner peace this is the only shift that really needs to occur. So you do not have to give up your natural desires and interests. They will not get in the way of your attaining peace if you use them to attain peace. So pursue your natural inclination to help, remembering that every situation is a classroom where you can learn of peace from the Holy Spirit (Teacher of Truth). In time, Truth will grow real to you and you will recognize that the meaning that you see in a meaningless world comes from your own thoughts and beliefs. Nothing real disturbs your peace. Only your own thoughts can disturb your peace.
    When you no longer see the world as real you will no longer feel a need or desire to “help”. This is not to say that you will not help others. But you won’t be coming from personal need or desire. You will simply be willing to help if that is the way things flow for you and you will not have strong feelings about helping or not.

  10. I can relate to the Plato quote. I feel good about myself when I have something to say and say it even if I’m feeling uncomfortable…especially if it helps someone else, or is the virtuous thing to do in the moment. Often, I overstate my case and then get that “social hangover” you once talked about here, Mary. Where I weigh my words and ways (enthusiasm, dramatic effect), then waste time beating myself for too many words. “Only your own thoughts can disturb your peace” as Mary Solomon states above.

    But sometimes, I just “have to say something” in a group discussion – like Book Club last night…and then as Plato suggests, I feel foolish. Because when I can hold my tongue, I give other less demonstrative people a chance to say something…that is valuable, meaningful…doesn’t keep ME in the spotlight…and feels more PEACEFUL…aaah…breathe….smile…:) Happy Friday All. Mary Rita

  11. Wonderful post and comments from your Friday post Mary. I continue to read and be inspired here at WFF. I do comment less myself, not out of disinterest, but realized I was working too hard at having something “amazing” to say. Truly listening and taking in what is said with less emphasis on having my say is a work in progress for me. Love to all who gather here.

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