This wasn’t your typical Vipassana meditation in a controlled environment. I decided to keep living my life exactly the same with the exception of using my voice to communicate. Picture me going about my business and stopping at the store to pick up groceries. It’s funny to see how people respond to something out of the ordinary. It was quite the experiment. Most people were puzzled about my unusual behavior.
The cashier must have thought I was deaf as I touched my hand to my throat and nodded my head indicating I would not be speaking. She smiled and proceeded, ‘Oh.. OKAY HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO PAY?’ Screaming as if I were hard of hearing. SMH. Like yelling would help me even if I was deaf. It was decided: I’d carry a note around with me from now on.
People were amazed and confused. I could see the gears turning in their head as they silently asked, But Why?
I didn’t quite know, when I embarked on this pilgrimage of stillness, what the reason was. My first experience with a vow of silence was with Art Temple at a festival where anything goes and nothing is unusual. It was a beautiful group experiment that I found compelling and fascinating as I was presented with opportunities to communicate and express myself in new and unique ways. I noticed my brain began to work differently as if I was looking at things through a different set of eyes. I could see some serious benefit to this self-imposed limitation.
I felt inspired to try it again and so I embarked on a 10 day journey of silence. No speaking. No digital communication. I didn’t know what exactly I was getting myself into. I knew it would be insightful but I hadn’t considered at the beginning of the 10 days, how much pain I would experience.
Day One: I woke up on this particular morning with the absolute certainty that I wasn’t going to speak, and without warning I referred the people I was living with to my explanatory sticky note.
I had an intense desire to write, to draw and to move my body. I wished to create and play yet I found myself instead battling this inner tension that I couldn’t quite shake. As a healer that helps people navigate this terrain every day, it was increasingly frustrating and the tension grew. I remembered the unique perspective I tasted during vow of silence with the Art Templars. In hopes that it would help me express myself in new and different ways I committed myself to the full ten day journey.
The first day was nice, quiet. Peaceful. I wrote and I rested. The next day I noticed that nobody was talk to me and I felt like my roommate was avoiding me. The empath in me was finding it hard to distinguish my discomfort from hers. Guilt joined the party. Housed in the dark corners of my mind her loathing voice crept in, ‘This is selfish and unreasonable. You’re making people feel uncomfortable. Why would you do such a thing just for your silly little experiment?’ she said. ‘What could you possibly accomplish?’ the beatings ensued.
I wanted to call my mom. I wanted her to tell me that what I was doing was okay, courageous even. I wanted someone to give me a permission slip to my own freedom of expression. The irony was too much and the tension in my body grew thick and heavy. Rarely do I ask for help. I’m strong. I can do it all on my own.
I realized this attitude - this story - has gotten me where I am and if I wanted to get somewhere else I’d have to change the story I was telling myself. I decided to dive into a deeply cathartic practice of writing from the heart. The only rules are to fill three pages minimum, write as fast as possible and don’t lift the pen until I’m done. I never know what’s going to appear on the paper before I begin.