What a 72-hour “Vow of Silence” taught me

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Some Backstory: The previous week (before this “vow of silence”) I had felt like I was speaking just to be validated or for attention, I felt like I was talking to please others rather than to be authentic to myself. I was wasting my words. On Thursday night I was doing some mindless browsing on youtube and stumbled across a video about monks that took vows of silence. This inspired me. So, I woke up on a Friday morning and decided I wasn’t going to waste my words any longer. Before I started my “vow of silence” I told 1 of my close friends about what I was doing (for a little support). Heres what I learned and noticed.

1) I realized I hadn’t been listening to anyone. Before this I found myself to talk and then instead of listening, I would prep my next point or joke thus I was not in the moment whatsoever. In a sense, I would be taking part in 2 or more conversations, one with the person in front of me and then multiple conversations in my head which just split my awareness and stopped me from listening. So when my ability to speak was stripped I only had the capacity to listen, so that’s what I did. In an ironic way, some of my best conversations happened over those 72 hours because for the first time in my life I cherished and took in every word someone was saying.

2) Not everything is worth saying. A good rule of thumb (I think developed my the Buddhists) is to filter what you’re about to say through 3 guidelines, Is it kind? Is it True? Is it Necessary? Before this I found myself to be saying nasty or judgemental shit about others, so be conscious about what you say.

3) People like to talk. Sounds quite self-explanatory but I found that people talked to me just as much (even more so) than usual.

4) Stop Justifying Yourself: As I previously mentioned I only told 1 person about what I was doing so, when I was in school or in class and people would ask me why I couldn’t speak I could only reply in a smile and a shrug. What was surprising is when my friend told them what I was doing people were very supportive and weren’t weirded out at all (which is the opposite of what I thought would happen). Own what you are and just be no matter what others think. In the past I would find myself to justify my actions to everyone around me so no one thought I was weird, It’s a useless defense, we need to stop trying to control the external and others opinions. Instead, solidify the internal awareness.

5) People still like you even if you’re not talking: As quite an extroverted person I found myself to talk to excess. So in a sense over time, I subconsciously saw my value as a person to my friends only in the things I said and in my ability to make others laugh, but in reality that just isn’t the case. If you have real friends then they like you for the person you are and the things you’ve done not only for the jokes and things you say. Most of the time your presence is all they want 🙂

6) Take a backseat: Sometimes its good to just let others speak whilst you just observe with awareness if you have nothing of value to add. I found myself barging into conversations that I should just be listening to. Talk a deep breath and just sit back and just be.

7) You are the centre of your own universe (same goes for everyone else). I felt like before this, I had become very self-conscious and felt like I had to control everyone’s opinions about me or otherwise I would feel bad about myself. But just through not speaking I saw that everyone is focused on themselves more than they are on you. Someone gave me this example of seeing a guy shouting on the street, you see it and then 30 seconds later your thinking about something else; chances are that “embarrassing” experience you had is only remembered by you and not by anyone else.

8) Smile more: Since I couldn’t speak the main way I would communicate to people that were talking to me was by smiling and nodding. I found that when I smiled they would return that positive energy back to me tenfold. The external in a sense is a reflection of what you give out.

I did this exercise over 1 day of school and 2 days of the weekend and it did me wonders.