Monday, May 10, 2010

The Burden of Speech

Not until I spent seven days not saying a word, with the exception of three fifteen minutes interviews with Gil and Andrea, did I realize what an imposition speech can be. And I understood Gil's instruction that  "You are to keep noble silence throughout the retreat, to not disrupt process of settling taking place. Think about it as solids settling down the bottom of dirty water. If you agitate the water, the process of settling gets hindered, and the water does not get a chance to get pure."

Not having to speak, nor to listen to others' words, gave me spaciousness of mind. No need to worry about committing false speech, or being subjected to it. My attention naturally turned to cultivating wholesome thoughts, and deliberate actions. And I got the time and stillness necessary to meet with my most inner core. 

Speech. A necessity of life, that needs to be used with greater economy, and mindfulness.


  1. M.:

    Just completed 7 day silent retreat in March. The silence is such a powerful therapeutic force I sincerely wonder (not for the first time) how much difference what other specifics we practice then actually make. This last retreat was Dzogchen practice. Have previously done several silent breath meditation retreats and a silent vipassana retreat.

    The things that impressed me the most this time: 1)how exhausting it felt to start talking again, and 2)how overwhelmingly loud and busy everyone/everything sounded. This sensitivity lasted for several days afterward.

    What occurred to me about the former: energy is reallocated in the body when it is not constantly going out through speech. (How often in the Pali Cannon does the Buddha assent with silence ?) About the latter, well, if it was a bit of a shock to reenter after only a week, what about a much longer retreat? What about a 3 year 3 month retreat ?

    In gassho,

    Diego stargazer

  2. Thank you Diego, for sharing. I agree with your observation of reallocation of the energy that is usually devoted to speech, to more internal processes, including more centered physical presence. I wish silence was taught in schools . . . :)

    And yes, I am also curious to see what happens during, and after longer periods of silence. I am sure the monastics have a lot to say on the topic. I am thinking of doing a two week retreat next. My hunch is the longer the time, the deeper the work of deconstruction, and the greater the chance of getting to the bedrock of moment to moment experience.

    With much metta,