I’m walking with a friend on the beach – very early morning. It’s the dawn of a beautiful tropical day. The birds are busy with their sunrise songs and the waves add a rhythmic harmony. The coconut palms are rustling and looking far and wide for any chance of rain. My friend and I are luxuriating in the stillness and the sound vibrations of nature. The majority of tourists are asleep in their air-conditioned rooms. The warm water wraps around our feet and the sand crunches between our toes. The crabs scurry letting everyone know the tide is coming in. The bedraggled flags flap and fray. The sun seems to rise faster here in Thailand — a slow peep over the hills and then a high leap into the air.
And then it starts … we start … my friend and I start talking.
Like two automated cuckoo clocks, the sun signalling our departure from the mystery and magic of the night and of dawn. The sunrise shouts ready, steady, GO. The world gets noisier. More and more people come to stretch their way into the day. The beach vendors set up their myriad of commerce. The clatter of sunbeds and deckchairs, in systematic succession, unfold like a magic trick onto the beach.
Then it continues … we get louder … we talk faster.
I breathe. I take my friend’s hand trying to bring the presence and awareness of simply listening to nature; even just listening to the world clumsily bang around us as it wakes up. He doesn’t register and keeps on talking. I listen to what he’s saying and then like some cosmic joke I truly hear what he is saying, what we have both been saying.
We are simply speaking our thoughts. He’s narrating what’s going on around us. What he sees. He gives endless interpretations and I respond with endless interpretations and digressions. It’s chit-chat, innocuous banter. It’s just how we interact most of the time. How we relate. I speak my thoughts and he replies. He speaks his thoughts and my thoughts answer.
I smile at him again … he gets it. We both laugh. He says, “What was I talking about?” And I gently say, “You’re narrating your experience, rather than simply having the experience in its totality.” He smiled, and said, “Tell me more …”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw many people taking selfies, some obsessively, and it became clear to me: Endlessly narrating our experiences is the old-fashioned equivalent of taking selfies. It’s a way of not being fully present and fully immersed in the direct experience itself.
Silence is essential. We need silence, just as much as we need air, just as much as plants need light. If our minds are crowded with words and thoughts, there is no space for us. – Thich Nhat Hanh
This opened up a fantastic and dynamic conversation. A real, live experience of listening, digesting and processing each other’s experience and assimilating it. It felt vital. Luckily, I was in very good company. We journey together in Truth, transparency, and reflection. We were both plugged into this exploration and suddenly all the world around us became hyper-real; a welcome non-intrusive part of the conversation.
Consciousness in Sharing and Hearing
Our enquiry led us to commit to being more vigilant about what we say and about when we say it. We came up with some ground rules to help keep us on track. To be mutually respectful and aware of how ‘talking’ can be a noise pollutant. It felt strange to speak about speaking. Almost contrived and unnatural to make rules about conversation and communicating. And yet here we were, recognising that unconsciously speaking our thoughts out loud was somehow a disservice to ourselves and each other.
Within this exploration, we realised there is a finer way to approach chit-chatting, and that’s to ask a simple question …
Does my need to talk match the listener’s desire to hear?
This takes a lot of courage and honesty. More often than not we are doing our blah-blah-blah and we are being tolerated and not listened to at all, never mind heard.
We recognised it’s a great act of love and friendship to be fully available and fully present to listen and fully hear. And when we cannot be fully present for this generous act, to simply own it and speak it.
Naturally and humorously we agreed sometimes we just want to speak and have a rant, like choosing to watch an old sitcom from our childhood. It can be a way of relaxing, unwinding and letting go of tension. We decided the best way to do this, is to mutually agree beforehand, to make a contract … to make it a conscious rant.
For example: “Are you willing to listen to me for ten minutes while I just download or talk about nothing in particular?”
Now, choice and a clear contract are on the table. The answer can be negotiated: “Yes, no problem.” or “I love you and I’d rather be quiet.” or “How about five mins for you and five mins for me?” Etcetera …
There’s another courageous option when being with friends; simply take the lead and ask for some time to just be with each other in silence. It can be a great meditative shared experience, noticing what else is happening both internally and externally when space is made by the absence of talking.
We recognised too that it might be a sweeter way to commune with life if we ensure that what we say is kind or in the pursuit of kindness. We were reminded of the three check-points for speaking: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it useful?
Is it Kind? Is it True? Is it Useful?
We sat down on the sand, closed our eyes and fell into private contemplation. The need to talk outwards fell away and the need to commune inwards arrived. I can’t say what went on in my friend’s awareness or contemplation. I chose not to ask him and he chose not to talk about it.
I was sharply aware that I, and most people I know, talk too much and about not much at all. I imagined harnessing this energy and converting it into electricity. I smiled and reddened a little as I thought about how I could probably keep this small town in Thailand powered for a whole year with the rubbish I incessantly vocalise. I asked myself if my habitual talking actually served consciousness in any way. Sadly, the answer was a big, loud and clear “No”.
It was humbling to recognise that much of my talking was mostly: stating the obvious; complaining or arguing with my reality; judging or commenting on everything and anything … simply put, it was a waste of energy that did nothing to raise the vibration of Unity, Peace, and Love in the world. I made a promise there and then to do better. To use my words and voice more consciously.
As with many writers, I use poetry as shorthand, as a way of making concise and anchoring a rather large concept, topic or experience. The following poem arrived out of the recognition that my ego needs to fill in all the gaps with talking, being heard and seen, etc.
I am more comfortable with silence when I am alone. No wonder I crave alone time! I am unaccustomed to silence when I am with others. I want to share more silence and the power of truly listening with my family and friends. I want to cultivate the restful and regenerative medicine in silence. I want to trust the silence.
My solution … Shut up and let the silence speak!
Let the Silence Speak by Paul C Pritchard
Here I am.
And there you are.
We are inextricably woven, with our unique human threads,
with and of and in the whole tapestry of this infinite creation.
Beloveds, I’m fading.
Soon I’m not sure I’ll have anything else to say …
There will only be Love appreciating Love
in all her spectacular Universal manifestations.
And we, the brave ones, the God-idiots,
are given glimpses of realms and spheres that literally blow our tiny, tiny, tiny, minds.
I can hear our egos, at opposite ends of the Universe, calling to each other …
Like tiny birds in tiny cages ~ Singing their ridiculous bogus sorrow to one another.
The cage doors are wide open.
And we the courageous fools keep promising to leave our cages
and sing devotional songs to the Beloved …
Will you join me Beloveds?
Will you fly to me instead of singing to me across the great desert of infinite space?
We cannot meet in the middle as the middle will not exist.
Let’s meet Everywhere …
For wherever you are …
There I am.
We are of course curious about your thoughts and contemplations. We would love to hear from you. How has excessive talking impacted your life? How has silence enriched your relationships? How is talking and or listening for you in general? Please write in the comments below or silently contemplate your relationship with chitter-chatter and we’ll receive it through the ethers.
Much love in sweet silence and kind voice.
The beauty of the world we live in is that we are all one, all are heart beats as one, only our thought creating the world we see and if we aware of our thoughts and use the energy for loving and uplifting thougths we creating a world of love, peace and beauty from the inside out.
Silence speaks volumes to me, at times gently, & other times, Loud–if i’m not listening.
its message is clear: let go of all the ‘Noise’ circulating both without & within, leach it from all aspects of this form~ let if fall away;
as i feel edges of it slip away, i open to silence’s Light, running to Its safety & peace.
in the silence i can see where i have been & where i might go to begin again;
floating in a sea of Grace~ connected, aware, in awe~
silence sings to me! i hear her, Hokkmah~!!
oh,such Joy! Holy One, speak through me that only loving kindness & compassion may escape these lips that are now Yours . . .
Silence speaks, i listen~~re.newed, re.Made, One with All That Is & Ever Will be.
Paul I love love love your words
Really love it. Thank you!
God bless your pen, Paul. Keep writing great articles
Love this! Thanks for excellent article
8:30 am in Norwalk, Connecticut and I’ve just read this excellent article!
Dear Mr. Pritchard,
It’s always bothered me that something was wrong with my incessant urge to narrate life with my husband, but I could never quite identify why it was wrong – despite knowing concepts like “noble silence.” Reading your story, I could see that rather silence being communion with all that is, I was equating it with force. I could hear my father, “Can we just have some silence for a change?” or my mother, “Pipe down for god’s sake! I can’t think when you’re talking.” It’s the missing piece to the puzzle.
10:07 a.m. and I have just finshed reading your article aloud to my husband.
We’re on our way!
Thank you so much.
Beautiful article. Thank you so much!
Early in my life, I talked too much and saw that most people were not interested or uncomfortable with constant chatter. As a result, I became very quiet because I realized I did not add anything of value to the conversations. Now that I am older, most of the people in my life talk incessantly and I have taken on the role of the listener. Some are lonely, some are afraid, and most just want to be seen and/or heard. I get it. I think each person discovers silence in their own time and place. I am thankful for the gift of silence and the peace brings me.
Lovely writing. Appreciated very much. W.A.I.T. = Why Am I Talking?
In this morning’s breath prayer, I understood I am my breath, I am the omnipresent silent creative void, I am the joy of knowing this moment.
This was lovely. A terrific read: A Book of Silence, Sara Maitland. This past year I have grown to enjoy NOT hearing myself talk. I have always been the chatterbox, piping up when conversations lag, almost like incessantly trying to plug the holes of a collander…..but a collander is SUPPOSED to have holes! As I grow older, and talk less, I am able to be more present for my patients, letting them tell their stories (they are Native American). I am more comfortable saying, “It’s ok if we don’t talk about anything” and frequently delight in the pleasant outcome of that. Almost like we need to give each other permission NOT to talk. It’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing this piece, Paul.
A wonderful sharing, thank you Paul. I always liked silence even when I was a child, but I also like sharing deep reflection with a few friends. Practicing meditation for the past 32 years I felt the need and the aspiration to bring the wealth of silence in my conversation, even during the “ordinary” communications I want to maintain in my daily life with all kind of people.
In my experience, real silence dissolves the separations or distinction we thought we had to put between the ordinary and the spiritual. Instead, silence allows us to perceive the meaning more than the words and bring to light the intention of their message.
I always enjoy silence. Sound of Silence is awesome and sweet.
Love this! Thanks so much for sharing. I crave silence, so I am sure to find and be in silence daily.
Thank you. It’s so beautifully true. I need to be reminded. It’s so wonderful that such loving and inspiring messages are coming thru the internet now.
I like the silence. Meditate every day 1 hour. And when I am in a group, we start with a silence. I love it.
I live in a Latin country and Latin people love to communicate……………all the time. Sometimes it annoys me as I am originally from a different culture where we do not talk so much.
But they are good-hearted people who are always ready to help. I have noticed that even in the 12-step group I belong to, members find silence uncomfortable and inevitably, after 30 seconds or a minute, someone will talk. I had a friend some years ago who was a Spiritual Healer who used to say that even in the middle of Picadilly Circus, he could shut out the clamour around him and go into a meditation. I can’t do that. I often wish I could. But the most useful attitude I find is tolerance. Many people who talk all the time live alone and maybe that is the only contact they might have with another human all day. I have never lived alone. I am fortunate.