My day of silence

*** CLICK HERE to listen to my interview with Anne LeClaire ***

** Scroll down to read my ‘silent journal entries’ **

In the midst of the political and emotional chaos, I have decided to take a day of silence.

Would you be interested in joining me?

Inspired by a book that I read called  Listening Below the Noise (by Anne D. LeClaire), I have been toying with the idea of trying silence.  I have never had the courage to do it.  I read the book last year and was very inspired by it, but I always thought that my life was too hectic for me to be silent.

The book has inspired me from the first chapter.  I loved it all.  It reminded me that when you’re silent you learn a lot about yourself.  You are better at putting things into perspective. Your creativity flows. You become a better listener. And you start noticing the world around you and the sounds you wouldn’t otherwise hear.  I would imagine it’s similar to fasting in a way.

Now, many months after reading the book, I decided to bring the author of that book for an interview on my internet radio show DARE TO BE HEALTHY.  She inspired me so much that just reading the book gave me inner peace. I wanted to speak to her.

*** CLICK HERE to listen to my interview with Anne LeClaire ***


 

 

Anne LeClaire is a former actor, print journalist and radio broadcaster. She is the critically acclaimed, best-selling author of eight novels and the award winning memoir, “LISTENING BELOW THE NOISE: The Transformative Power of Silence,” which was named one of the 50 best spiritual books of 2009. She teaches creative writing workshops throughout the United States and in a number of international venues including the Maui Writers Conference and is a popular lecturer at colleges and universities.  She has been a keynote speaker for The Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association and the Association of American University Women among others and is a Distinguished Fellow of the Ragdale Foundation. Her books have been translated into twenty-four languages and three have been optioned for film. She leads workshops and seminars exploring silence and deep listening and their connection to creativity, health and spirituality.

To my delight, Anne agreed to come on my show! “I want to re-read the book and maybe even try a day of silence before I speak to her” I decided.

And then the political situation got escalated in Bahrain and the whole country went into chaos and lots of emotional instability. It felt very uncomfortable.  The last thing I was thinking of was my radio show; we were thinking about survival.   But the interview date was nearing…

“Who has time to be silent in these circumstances!” I thought. “I wish I could have done this in better times.”

But just two days ago, it dawned on me. Silence was the answer to my many prayers for peace and inner peace. I have been struggling to find focus, and quieting my mind has been very difficult. Maybe this was the answer.

*** CLICK HERE to listen to my interview with Anne LeClaire ***

 

So, instead of waiting for things to ‘get better’ before I try silence, I have decided to let silence help me make things better

I’m not expecting it to be easy. Nor am I expecting it to solve all my problems. I have three kids, a job, and a phone that won’t stop ringing.

But I’m curious as to what silence will teach me.

Silent Journals

I will be keeping my ‘silent journals’ on this page. You can come back here for more information.

I would also like to invite you to join me. 24 hours of silence. No speaking at all for one day only. You can decide for yourself whether you want to also eliminate TV, email, internet, etc. It’s up to you. I haven’t decided on that one yet myself.  I’ll play it by ear.

I would love to hear your feedback on it as well (whether or not you decide to do it). Leave all your feedback in the ‘comments’ section of this post.

Here are the details:

Date: Wednesday 9th or Friday 11th March

Plan: One day of silence

Silent revelations

Entry 1 (8 March 2011)

I’ve only just thought of having a day of silence and I’m already confronted with all kinds of reasons why I can’t do it.

Is it ever convenient to be silent?  The answer, as I’m finding out, is no.  Going silent, especially when so many people depend on you talking, is very difficult. My family thinks Friday is not the best day to be silent because of the social obligations. A dinner on Friday is also making it difficult. But work during the week makes it hard to be silent.  How will I greet Tameem’s teachers in school if I’m silent? Should I flash a card announcing my silence? So many questions that are coming up.  They all make me realise that silence is not as easy as it sounds. It seems it truly is ‘golden’.

As I made ‘silent’ plans, I realised that planning my silent day was now making me more anxious than relaxed.

I have found that once you make a decision to be silent, all the reasons why you shouldn’t will pop in your face.  As LeClaire put it in her book, “Somehow we have become estranged from quiet and have developed not only a low tolerance for it, but an almost outright fear of it.”

But I’m determined to try it.  So, I shuffled things around and have now decided to take a day of silence tomorrow (Wed 9th March). Twenty four hours of no verbal communication.

Will you join me? You can choose any day this week.  If you, let me know what comes up.

Entry 2 (March 9, 2011)

Last night as I was mentally preparing for my silent day, I was anxious because I didn’t know what to expect. At some point, I even felt guilty. How selfish of me to put my whole family through this while I take a whole day ‘off’ in silence.  I found myself apologising a few times to various people saying that I ‘need to do this’, and I had  a hard time confessing to my husband that I will need his help with the kids during this day. How would I feel if he decided to take a day of silence?

Very often, taking time for yourself is viewed as selfish, egotistical, or even rude. Many mothers I see agree that it’s important to have time for yourself but somehow they never get around to doing it because they put everybody else first. Was I feeling guilty for spending time with my silent self?

I ended up going to bed at 8pm, from sheer exhaustion after a turbulent and emotional two weeks. I had dreams of sitting on the beach and watching the waves, some of which were violent.

The morning started on a good note.  “Not bad,” I thought. “I can do this”. The first two people I see are my two older kids (9 and 7). They had forgotten that  I will be silent and they gave me funny looks when I just hugged them and smiled. When it dawned on them that I was being ‘silent’, they had great fun asking me questions and seeing the creative sign language I had to come up with. Let’s just say they had a lot of giggles courtesy of moi. They even tried to ‘be silent like mama’ for about 5 minutes in the car until they discovered that’s boring.

When I got home, I woke up my 2yr old, silently. He didn’t notice at first but after a few attempts to get my attention, he stuck his face into mine and called me repeatedly, waiting to see the reaction. I don’t know if he understood, but he eventually accepted it better than any adult.

As my silent day unfolded, I found my brain more serene. As I see it, in my brain there are 2 sections: one for my thoughts and one for what I will say. Today I got to rest 50%. I realised all the things that I would have said but didn’t. Selma didn’t make her bed in the morning, Gracy didn’t fix the bird cage, Tameem forgot his sweater at school… all these would have required commands on my part, but I pulled them back. Just for today, it doesn’t really matter if things are not perfect. I could get used to this.

So far (and I’m not an expert), being silent feels like spending time with myself. I got flashbacks from the day I gave birth to my first child with all the emotions involved. I wonder why. Maybe it’s because that’s the day that ‘being alone’ ended for me.

Being silent feels like being removed from the world and just acting as a spectator. You read people’s body language and facial expressions better, you notice background noises (our new parrot is making that interesting), and LISTEN to others because you’re not busy thinking of you will say next.

As LeClaire puts it in her book, “Nothing has changed the nature of man so much as the loss of silence”.

Will keep you posted as the day unfolds.

Entry #3 (March 9, 2011)

As the day unfolded I found myself dipping into a quiet blissful place (especially with the kids in school). My thoughts were clear and I could finally hear myself think!

But when the kids came home for lunch, I struggled.  Again, they forgot I was silent and Laith kept asking me open-ended questions that required more than a yes/no answer! But I had the hardest time with 2yr old Tameem because he was trying very hard to get my attention.

Kids aside, sounds around me are starting to feel disturbing. I took Laith to football practice and realised (for the first time) how noisy it is. Kids shouting, cars driving in and out, other parents chatting, phones ringing.  In the past, these were normal background noises. I don’t know why today they bothered me.

I’m also feeling very conscious of what others might think of my silence. I wore my sunglasses at football practice to shield myself from possible eye contact that might warrant conversation. But why did I feel conscious about telling them I was silent? It would be awkward for them I guess, so I didn’t want to risk it.  At some point I also felt guilty for inconveniencing my kids and my family by not talking.

During silence, my dreams and daydreams are different. The common theme in my dreams seems to be loss of control and the need to fight for my life, my rights, etc. Is that what is lurking in my subconscious?

If I had to explain how I feel, I would say I feel invisible, as if I were a spectator on my own life.  for example, over lunch, the conversation did not include me.  Selma talked about the demonstrations outside her school. I said nothing. I tried to read her face and body language for signs of fear or distress. I didn’t find any.

Maybe the most uncomfortable thing I’m feeling while being silent is the loss of control. I knew I had a problem letting go but I didn’t realise how big it was until now.  I can no longer fix things. And as many mothers would agree, we need to fix things! I’m finding it hard to let go of control. To let someone else do it cuz I’m not ‘here’ today.  It feels like leaving home but watching them through a live camera.

Let it go, Alia!  Just let go!

This reminds of what I read in LeClaire’s book today:

When I speak of my silent days, women often say, “I could never do that.” I understand Most of us are ‘fixers.’ One aspect of withdrawing from speech is that we have to cede influence over others. To be speechless is to relinquish control, to know that there is nothing we can do, including expressing empathy in the face of another’s distress.  At heart, silence is an exercise in surrender.

 

6 responses to “My day of silence

  1. This intrigues me. Many in convents or retreats have practiced this and if you saw the movie or read the book “Eat, Pray, Love” the main character was challenged with this as well. I will pray about this and perhaps will join you and report my experience with it to you. I truly wish you the very best and pray you will have the determination to accomplish all you have planned. You are on the right track. You can do it.

  2. Very interesting..seems like everyone been struggling to find focus, and quieting their mind been very difficult as well. A day of silence! hmm no Internet! Sounds like a huge challenge that i doubt i can take anytime soon. Never the less, would love to hear your feedback of such experience. Keep us updated. Best of luck.

  3. I will give it a try! I’ll try my best not to engage myself in any conversation and remain silent at home, I’ll read something all day – a fantasy novel maybe to escape reality – along with a non-dairy warming hot chocolate🙂 Or perhaps a herbal tea with some biscuits…yum! But I’ll ignore my laptop and my cell phone. I’m not sure if I can avoid TV though😛

  4. My case is totally different, let me tell you why. I have grown up somewho alone because my younger sister was born nine years after me:), i spent my childhood to some extent lonely, even at my school and university i was quite. I worked in job which involves lots of analysis and minimum people contact. Just imagine how would it be if i spent another 24 hours of silence:) i what do u think alia?? I think i will forget some of my vocabulary if i did so🙂

  5. Although i have not read or heard of the book, I have done a day of silence many times over the years and in fact i went on a retreat of 10 Days of silence and that includes no communication what so ever, even gesturers in anyway, no books, phones or computers basically no input into the mind what so ever. Believe me that 10 days will completely blow your mind the feeling when you leave that place is un comparable. Its certainly not for everyone but if your the right type then its good but preparing your self is key.

    But the main reason i write is one word of warning and although i have never written anything and rarely speak about this stuff (self help, spirituality etc), i have had the good fortune to have had some amazing guides pass through my life and have a wealth of experience and knowledge.

    The warning is if anyone has any forms of mental disturbances (pre cursors that can lead to mental illness) and they could be quite minor and many of us have them to varying degrees, days of silence and repeated days of silence with out guidance and people to talk to afterwards to help iron out any personal issues could possible make them worse. I have seen many poor people seek spiritual progression and end up in a worse state due to bad guidance. Now i don’t want to discourage anyone or of the joys it can bring, just be aware. Some of us need to be ready for it, if your inner guide is not yet sending a clear signal the mind can take you to some horrible places, thus the outward guide is necessary.

  6. This of all articles really got my attention! I tend to take max 2 hours of silence and I do feel much better as I get to think of things I keep putting of during the day, I am tempted to try a day of silence

    I know it will be hard as I am a working mom with two kids and just relaxing needs a lot of planning, I will let you know of my experience as I really wanna try this day of silence🙂

    Thank you for your great articles Alia

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