Keeping Silence / Taking a "Vow of Silence"
Taking a "vow of silence" is one of the oldest, simplest, and most effective spiritual techniques known. By voluntarily cutting yourself off from communication with others, you quickly remove yourself from the chaos, distraction, judgments, and neuroses of the world around you. By temporarily suspending communications with others, you create a "sacred container" around you, which helps you to go within.
Keeping silence makes you peaceful. It allows you to settle into the now, because language is how our minds focus on past and future. Simply keeping silence can help you to ground, settle, and begin to feel some peace. It allows you to connect more immediately with animals, plants, and the world around you. It can even allow you to connect in a much more genuine way with certain people. Furthermore, keeping silence is incredibly simple and can be practiced by virtually anybody.
Silence is golden.
Stop communicating with others for a specified amount of time.
- Decide how long you wish to keep silence. The minimum amount that can have a positive effect is around one hour. A powerful amount is 24 hours. Some monks have taken vows of silence that last for years, or even their entire lifetime! It’s all up to you.
- Let people know that you will not communicate with them during this time. Keeping silence includes forgoing written communications and physical gestures. It’s not so much the talking, as any type of communication that can be so turbulent and chaotic for people. So let people know that you won’t respond until such and such a time/date.
- Begin your period of silence by closing your eyes, breathing deeply, and getting clear about your reasons for keeping silence. What do you want to get out of this practice period?
- Keep silence. Remember that this means not engaging in any type of communication. If you see other people, you may even wish to look downward so as to avoid eye contact.
- Enjoy this time alone in your sacred container of silence.
- When your period of silence ends, close your eyes again, breathe deeply, and reflect on your experience. Then re-enter the stream of normal life refreshed and aware.
Monks of many different religious traditions have often used vows of silence to strengthen their connection to God, the Source, the Void, and so on.
In Sanskrit, a religious vow of silence is called mouna, so a person can be said to be "keeping mouna."
Christian monks of various stripes use the practice of silence to deepen their internal connection with Jesus.
Mahatma Gandhi kept formal silence one day each week (although he would sometimes write notes).
Make sure that others know of your vow. Otherwise they may be insulted, angry, etc. that you are not communicating with them.
You can increase the intensity of your silence by enforcing an internal vow of silence as well. This means letting go of verbal thinking for the specified time. While this is an extremely powerful practice, it is also somewhat difficult.
Keeping silence is often combined with other practices, such as keeping silence between periods of meditation, in order to intensify the practice.