Silence Is Golden

Photo by Earl Olson

When I was young I felt the need to fill any quiet moment of time with my talking. I was a chatterbox. I would follow my mother around the house when I got home from school everywhere she went, telling her each detail of my day, moment by moment. The poor lady couldn’t even be in the bathroom alone.

As I was older, and in high school, I still had that need to chatter. I was the center of my universe after all. We had exchange students stay at our house for a weekend music festival one year and I thought that they would be fascinated to hear all about my life so far- and I am talking from toddler to that day. I kept them up till about 2:00 a.m. telling my story! Well, one of the guys seemed interested anyway. My sister and I still laugh about that night. I remember it with a bit of a cringe.
Fast forward to meeting my husband, who is an introvert and 180 degrees different than I was in regard to talking. He came from a stoic, Swedish family and I was from a female dominated, affectionate, rather loud, fast-talking French Canadian family. It was culture shock for him. Those thirty-minute goodbyes were excruciating to him in the early days, as we would leave my extended family.
Interestingly, what happened over time was that we both changed. He became more chatty and I became less so. One of his friends called him “the phone man”, because he evolved into someone who checked in frequently with friends on the phone. I on the other hand felt less and less like I needed to tell my story, nor be completely understood as I once had. I no longer needed my story.
As a result of these changes I became a much better listener and wonder if I am an introvert myself. I tell you all of this because I recently listened to a talk given by Ilarion Merculieff, an Alaskian Aluet Elder from the Baring Sea’s Pribilof Islands. Ilarion lectures around the world on traditions and beliefs. He explained that at age two he began to live with his grand father for four years. During that time he spent 24/7 with his grand father learning traditional ways, the natural world and how to be a man in their culture. Ilarion remembered that as few as two hundred words were spoken by his grand father to him in those four years. Communication was watching what was demonstrated through living. His grandfather did not use his words to do the teaching. This is so different from my life experience.
With words we create story and make meaning in our minds. And often story and meaning making is what creates suffering for us, as science has discovered in the past decades. These scientists say that because we have language we suffer- unlike animals who don’t have language.
What I notice about chatter is that it can be stress/anxiety provoking, where as quiet, and stillness can be very peaceful and relaxing. I have come to crave quiet and even avoid those who need to chatter. Quite a change for me, isn’t it?
So if we want to drop some stress, drop some words and also our story. Be present and aware of what is here around us. This quiet awareness can be a place of peace for us and might be a great way to deeply learn new things. Give it a try and let me know if you agree or what you discover.