The pupils of the Tendai school used to study meditation before Zen entered Japan. Four of them who were intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence. On the first day all were silent. Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a servant: “Fix those lamps.”
The second pupils was surprised to hear the first one talk. “We are not supposed to say a word,” he remarked.
“You two are stupid. Why did you talk?” asked the third.
“I am the only one who has not talked,” concluded the fourth pupil.
In this fast paced modern world, there is much noise. Not just physical noise of the world but mental noise in our minds. At any given moment, we are thinking of a ton of things. Either about the past or planning the future or worrying or being anxious. Most of us also extrapolate that into the real world and talk quite a lot. This incessant talking which feeds the noisy mind and takes energy from the noisy mind in return creates a lot of misery.
We are compelled to say things, offer advice, speak out against or even abuse from a reactive mode. Our environment triggers our mind which in turn reacts by speaking out – most of the times, with out even thinking. The side of the coin is that in our haste to talk, we forget to listen. When we don’t listen, we fail to understand others and communication breaks down.
To be silent is to be a good listener. To be silent is to be able to reflect and think through situations. To be silent is to be in the moment. One can achieve this kind of “noble silence” by practicing mindfulness. When you are in conversation with some one, pay attention to what they are saying. Breathe deep and with attention and be in the moment. Really “listen” to what the other person is saying. You do not need to respond back or make ideal chatter. Just your attention in the moment will make the other person feel delighted.
When faced with a situation that triggers your anger, focus on your in-breath and your out-breath. Do not react in the usual way. Do not say anything. Be still. Breathe. Have a half smile on your face and be in the moment. Decide wether you want to say anything in response and then reflect on what you are about to say. Is your mind compelling you to lash out in anger or in spite? Breathe.
To help with this, it would be useful to start learning to keep the mind quiet for some time each and every day. This can be done with meditation or even with just silent reflection. Turn off all sensory distractions. Turn off the radio, the TV, stop browsing the internet or listening to music. Just sit still in silence. Let your thoughts come and go. Focus on your in-breath and your out-breath. Be silent.
There is a reason it is said that wise people are silent and the foolish ones chatter!