An article about taking a vow of silence and how it taught me to deeply listen to everything around me but mostly importantly myself.
Hello my name is Steven Retchless and this is,
Silence for Humanity
A week ago I came down with a head cold and as the cold progressed I started to lose my voice. Which happened to be the best possible thing to teach me about communication. The root of the word communication comes from the word commune which when boiled down means to "connect." When I was unable to speak it forced me to LISTEN and the more I listened the more I learned how to connect without words. Now, you might be saying, "duh listening is part of having a conversation" but just hear me out or should I say "listen." Reminds me of a time in the third grade when my teacher taught us the phrase "yes, you can hear me but I need you to listen." That will forever be stuck with me.
I thought I was a good listener until I tried having a conversation without words. Even though I was hearing what the other person was expressing, I couldn't help but want to blurt out all that came to mind in relation to what they were saying. Of course I was listening but I desperately wanted to contribute. Then I looked up the word "listen," it said things like, "to hear with the ear" but it also said things like "obey, follow, accede to and honor." I was surprised to discover that when I came into the conversation with what I thought was valuable information that could help, it actually was taking away from honoring and validating the speaker's thoughts. In a way I needed to be more submissive to the conversation. We've heard of "dominating the conversation" and in gay lingo maybe you'd call this "topping." I consider myself a top conversationalist but am now realizing theres a whole world of "bottoming" out there that is quite pleasurable. Pun intended ;)
I've learned patience with silence. So much so that I've even applied it to eating. "How?" you ask. By listening. I use to be a clean your plate kind of guy who was taught from an early age that I have to finish whats on my plate before being excused or in order to get dessert etc... Even our media teaches us to compulsively and endlessly consume. So, the other night when ordering a whole pizza all to myself (which I've done regularly, its thin crust), I for the first time got down to 3 slices and then decided "hmm I'm good." I listened to my body and not just heard it say, "Im full" only to continue eating for the pleasure or to see my plate clean. I actually listened to and honored my body by stopping and getting it to go. This may be a poor example but it's an affect from listening to myself none the less. Plus I had leftover pizza the next day (vegan), score!!!
I've discovered that words really do get in the way and like the song says they mostly, "can do harm." I found that when I couldn't speak I had to connect deeper with the person in front of me to get my message across. Which often required eye contact and deep intent to transfer my feeling/sentiment/message to them with expression. Facial, but not just limited to and as simple and precise as possible. My reaction was that I was super impressed that people could easily guess what I was trying to say. Not only that but my heart swelled with pride that they understood me.
I started this journey because of a cold but I've now decided to take a vow of silence for the next week to see what else I can learn from this experience. I see now by not speaking how much people want to be heard and truly want to connect. You can't metaphorically make intercourse/love when you're both being conversational tops. The world needs more bottoms/listeners. Silent listeners who even when they have some wisdom to share they keep their mouth shut, continue to be a submissive listener and honor the person speaking. People need to figure out the answers for themselves. Thats the only way they'll have that "aha! moment." When they walk through the fire for themselves. Don't get me wrong. You can hold their hand and be there to catch them if they fall but nothing is more rewarding then being able to say, "I did it."
Submissive to the Conversation
It was very difficult for the first 2days to give my voice a rest because I love to sing and unapologetically talk to myself out loud. Yes, Im the crazy guy walking down the street talking to himself. I like to, because until now that was my way of listening to my thoughts, working it out and to better understand situations I've experienced. Recently, I caught myself more than once speaking out loud an argument that I had with a superior. Attempting to convince myself and justify over and over how I was right or how we were both wrong or both right, doesn't matter. I was unknowingly repeating how frustrated the situation made me. Trying desperately to find a resolution, justification or lesson learned. It just made me more upset. Then it clicked (in my silence) that I had to just let it go and that by repeating it over and over, especially out loud was unintentionally making me more frustrated. Ultimately, attracting to myself more of that same situation. Karma
They say thoughts become words, words become actions and actions become reality. I believe this theory and that words are very powerful. That they in a way are spells or wishes you make in collaboration with your mind and heart's expression. That's why I silently cringe when I hear people use words or phrases like, "Slay," "She killed it!" "Savage," "Yes, Bitch" and even "my phones dead." It's become the norm to say "bad means good." Although your intentions are good, to the universe it can be easily misconstrued and taken quite literally. Take music for example, one of the biggest influencers of society. Most of whats popular in today's lyrics is misogyny, money worship and violence. You could say music reflects current events but either way it feeds each other in a cycle. How can you expect a boy to grow up to be a gentlemen when he's been chanting lyrics like, "smack my bitch up" or "Bitch betta have my money" all his life? You have to admit this has some if not a ton of influence on society, especially our youth.
In my tendency to verbalize my every thought, through silence I've realized not every thought I have needs to be brought into existence. Especially negative ones. It's a waste of energy and when you refrain, the things you do say become more potent. Theres a great responsibility in having a voice and it's important to "think before you speak." You hold the key in your mind to pick and choose wisely what you want to say before you cast it off with a rippling effect into reality. This being said, I also believe theres great satisfaction in facing your fears and or purging what ever negativity you need to get off your chest. Usually this is done in private or in confronting the person it directly relates to.
we've lost the essence of communication
So, it got me thinking about the world today. How can we apply and benefit from being silent? I know, you're probably thinking, "NO! now more than ever we need to speak up!" and I could't agree with you more but we also need to choose wisely what we should/shouldn't say and remember why we are saying whatever it is in the first place. What's your ultimate intention and is what you're saying taking you in the direction of that intention? Remember what your speaking for. Don't get caught up in defending yourself against trolls who thrive on the debate. You will never get them to say, "you're right, I was wrong" because that's not their game. To much today people are obsessed with the high of arguing. Endlessly debating their opinions to each other. Never backing down because they're tired of being taken advantage of. I get it. Just remember to ask yourself, is this argument furthering my agenda or distracting me from my goals? If it's the latter than close the conversation and move onto your real purpose. Lead by example. Don't allow fear to get you caught up in pointing the finger at "the bad guy." Someone to blame. Thinking that if you can physicalize the problem and then terminate it then maybe by force and domination you'll rid yourself of the evil. Unfortunately, that just leads to more division and subsequently losing the essence of communication all together. Evil wins when theres no connection. No resolution can be made without it. Remember we are so much stronger when we join together. Don't point fingers, hold hands. <3
We need to strip away words and all the complications that come along with it. It's like Gloria Estafan says, "I try to say I love you but the words get in the way." Deep down all we want is to connect. To feel we belong and to experience community. "Words aren't so easy to say, you got to show me LOVE." -Robin S. Well, in my experience, being silently kind is the quickest way to get connected. Make more eye contact and put your hand over your heart, a sign that you care. Trust me, they'll get the message and you'll feel that instant connection. It makes agreeing easier because you both know simply that you have the same intention, to thrive.
theres a whole world of bottoming that is quite pleasurable
Whats also amazing is you can be quiet and listen to anything. Nature is especially easy to commune with, using your ears, heart and mind. My dog understands my intentions much clearer without words or tone of voice. Animals are quite receptive to this silent communication. Try it!
Warning: there are some challenges to being silent. It can be extremely isolating when you're not able to superficially communicate the things you need or want. People will look at you like you're crazy and or feel sorry for you but this is all part of the process and once you learn what, how and why, the rewards are bountiful.
Thanks for taking the time to read my article. If you liked it feel free to share and tag me "Steven Retchless"