Over the July 4th weekend, I had brunch with two new friends who recently moved to Boulder from New York. We ended brunch around 12:30 on Saturday.
I went home, did some work, took a nap, wrote a bit, and about 8 hours later, realized that I hadnt uttered a single word.
Could I be quiet for 30 hours? Given that Sunday night was the 4th, and I was planning on hanging out with friends, I figured that it would be pretty rude if I didnt say anything. 30 hours put me at around 6:30 pm, which seemed like a good time to stop.
As I was sitting outside the Boulder Century Theaters, on a bench watching a squirrel run around, I responded to a text from my friend Dustin about the plans for the evening.
Literally, at almost exactly 6:30pm, Ben, Rachel’s boyfriend, drove by the parking lot on a scooter, and stopped to say hello.
“Hey dude,” Ben said.
“Fuck,” I thought to myself, I cant not respond. He would have no idea why, and it would be rude.
“Hey man,” I responded. It was amazing how hard it was to say something after being quiet for just 30 hours. Its not like I was silent for 17 years like John Francis, who literally walked the Earth and stayed silent for 17 years…
Watch the video. In it, John says that he stopped talking because he found that as he was silent he learned more. For me? Im not sure if I learned more, but I definitely heard more.
And not just people, but all the sounds around me. I could hear my dogs and cats wander the house. I could hear people playing around outside. I could hear the flow of life. Ok, that might sound a little hippish, but the truth is that the world has a melody, a consistent beat, a reverberation that I only hear when I have been silent for an extended period of time.
Know what I did hear? My thoughts. My brain. I was certain I would be stuck in my thoughts all day, and lose clarity, but the truth was exactly the difference. My brain slowed down. I started to have clarity of thought. My mood shifted. I was actually in better spirits. I think my constant internal dialogue stopped.
There is something about the power of silence that we forget. We spend so much time focused on communication via Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, and what not, that we forget to realize that removing ourselves from flow of sound is just as important.
I now find myself defaulting to silence. I find it easier to listen. I find it, like John, easier to learn.
Who knew that silence was really golden?
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- The sound of stillness: how the brain hears silence – Examiner (examiner.com)
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- Silence is All the Rage in a Noisy Culture (beliefnet.com)