Noble Silence - a technique used by a lot of
Buddhists, monks, and nuns in which a person refrains from speaking
as a way to help quiet the mind and condition the body in the discipline
of right speech. By learning to keep from speaking every word that
comes up, we can censor or even omit harmful speech, and thus keep
from causing harm and suffering to others and ourselves.
Just this week I spent a day observing silence by not speaking.
The purpose was to control my thoughts in order to control my speech.
Sometimes I find myself just bursting out with all kinds of noises
or words that I really regret speaking. I find that when I do not
"bridle" my speech I can say all kinds of useless and
hurtful things that I had no intention of saying. This can be really
frustrating, especially when I'm trying to cultivate compassion
and loving kindness towards others!
This was my second session of noble silence practice. It went fairly
well and in the 24 hours I only spoke twice. (Don't laugh!) It's
harder than you think, especially when one spends 23 hours a day
in a cell by oneself. Add to this fact that other people seem to
take this day (at least it seems to me) to holler down the tier
to see how I am doing. Or, the guards are bringing around supplies
and will want you to speak to them. It can be a bit frustrating.
The first thing I observed in the first few hours of silence was
that I started to get angry. As I was lying on my bed reading a
Dharma book, I felt a tightening in my chest, then the emotion of
irritation, and then, outright anger.
The very first time that I practiced noble silence I had become
so angry that I quit after a few hours. Our chaplain, who is trained
in Tibetan Buddhism, had told me this might happen. I think it happens
because you are putting your mind and body under a control that
it is not used to, and therefore, you start to rebel against it.
So, I was prepared for it this time and when the anger arose, I
closed my eyes, took a deep breath in and said to myself, "My
mind is clear blue sky. Anger comes and anger goes (exhale), and
my mind is a clear blue sky." While reciting this "mantra,"
I envisioned a clear blue sky and a cleansing energy going through
my body, washing the anger away. After doing this once or twice,
the unwanted emotions went away and I was left with a feeling of
calm and peacefulness. I spent the rest of my day in peace and happiness.
I felt a sense of accomplishment.
I am also aware that I think about the words I will say to others
after breaking the silence and my thoughts are more considerate
Our words when spoken without thought of how they will affect others
are like arrows shot indiscriminately into the air. They can land
anywhere hurting innocents and can even return to impale us with
their barbed points. Practicing noble silence can turn those arrows
into feathers that float harmlessly and land softly, and can even
bring smiles to those hurting while bringing joy to our hearts at
having done no harm.