Morning Intention: Improving On The Silence

** Morning Intention: To ask myself, before I speak, whether speaking would improve on the silence 

We talk too much. I don’t know how else to say it, because in the end, I think it’s that simple: there is a limit to the peace of mind we can develop that is set by the quantity of words we use. Back in college, I used to maintain absolute silence one day a week. Obviously, I became a huge pain in the ass to everyone around me, but the real reason I don’t recommend that particular practice is that it’s more important to learn how not to talk in the middle of normal interactions and conversations with others. You can go on retreats or make a big deal about your silence, but the real changes come from learning how to pause in the middle of everyday conversations and ask, Do I need to say this? Would it improve on the silence? Can I just enjoy a moment of not-talking with this other person?

In meditation, you can clearly see the negative consequences of too much talking. As you sit and focus on your breath, you will notice the residue of all the chatter you’ve been engaged in lately. And in all likelihood, the chatter won’t look pretty. It will probably appear to you as a burden, an obstacle to peace and freedom. The trick is not getting discouraged by what you notice, but rather, holding it with an eye of wisdom. The chatter will dissipate on its own if you don’t feed it with negative commentary, so be careful about being judgmental toward what’s in your mind. On the other hand, if noticing the babble motivates you to talk a little less in daily life, that’s a good thing. See if you can learn the lesson without condemning yourself.

So here’s the practice: Today, sit and focus on your breath. When thoughts arise, regard them as the dregs of old chatter. Don’t take them personally. Just sweep them to the side and return to the pure clarity of your breath.


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