Shutting Up Now: How Long Can You Be Quiet?

When’s the last time you spent a quiet day?

I don’t mean a day of rest, drinking coffee and reading in your favorite armchair. I mean a day of NOT SPEAKING.

I know, right? Here’s an embarrassing truth about me: even when I’m alone, I talk. Aloud. A lot. I’d like to pretend I’m holding a conversation with my dog, but…my dog is not present when I ride my bike or go on a long drive. And I’m still yakking producing fascinating monologues.

So it was both a relief and a challenge to attend, this past weekend, the silent retreat held by my Quaker Meeting. It wasn’t even an entire DAY–just 6 1/2 hours of silence, the last hour of which was allowed to be punctuated by people who wished to share the insights that the previous 5 1/2 hours had delivered.


(Courtesy Matisse)

(Courtesy Matisse)

I spent my time alternately walking out to the rocky nature preserve near the retreat house, staring out the window, sitting on a giant lichen-covered rock, and writing, writing, writing in my journal.

Oh, and eating. Quakers are master potluckers.  But even lunch was silent, broken only by the occasional crunch of chips.

To say the day was refreshing would be a massive understatement. It was an ENORMOUS gift (as I know, in my old teaching life, I would never have used up an entire weekend day for something like that, much as I needed to). It was weird–especially walking while keeping all my “air-journaling” conversations inside my head for once. It was wonderfully social, all communication held to smiles and nods.

And it was too short. At the end of the 6 1/2 hours, I didn’t feel the need to break the silence. I almost wished we could have finished up, including all the dish-washing and vacuuming and figuring out whose coats were whose, in quiet communication, like the rest of the day.

I’m Word Woman, OK? So for me to wish to step away from words for so long…well, that tells you something.

So I’ll come back to my first question: when’s the last time you were quiet for a long period of time? What does silence do for you? Especially those of you with children still in the house, do you have a way to find any silence in your day? What do you do with it? We’d love to hear.

7 thoughts on “Shutting Up Now: How Long Can You Be Quiet?

  1. I don’t think that I was ever quiet for any period of time. Even in church, I manage to whisper, much to the dismay of my sisters. I do envy those nuns, who don’t speak at all, and seem to live in such peace. I wish I had their discipline.

  2. I confess. I talk to myself too. Most of the time chastising myself for doing something silly. That said, IF I’M ALONE (and that’s key), I can stay pretty darned quiet for a long time. Well, ok. There might be a few choice colorful metaphors that pop out…but for the most part…

    Then I get tired of no social interactions, I go out and get crazy, then come home and get quiet again. Alas, I have small kids now, so those times are few and far between. But yep, I love the silence.

    That said, we do this thing at church where you have to sit STILL for 2 minutes at the end of the message. 2 minutes I can do. Heck, I’ll bet I can do 5. But anything more? Oh. My. God. Get some duct tape.

  3. There are probably some ministers out there who wish they had their own private duct tape supply to use at will…Actually, I guess we all would. Except when WE’RE the ones yakking, cause WE at least make sense, right?

  4. Pingback: Making Your Own Peace on Earth For Christmas | Wing's World

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