The Gift of Silence

by Fernando Perfas

“Meditation” | Photo by Spirit-Fire via Flickr/Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

A few years ago, I decided to join a ten-day meditation retreat. At the time, I was looking for an inner stimulation of some sort. What a better challenge than a retreat that required complete silence. We were strictly forbidden to talk from the time we checked in until the retreat was over, only two meals a day, breakfast served at about 8 a.m. and a meal at noon and tea in the late afternoon.

Except for an hour lecture in the morning and in the evening and about six hours of sleep and relaxation, the rest of the time was spent in meditation. We sat cross-legged on our mats for long hours practicing meditation as taught in the lectures. When we got up at 4 a.m., we went right into meditation until six.

“By not talking and engaging in any form of conversation, I realized how much of our ordinary waking time is spent in a trivial talk, from complaining to gossiping, blaming, to criticizing, and worse, arguing, cursing, or defaming others.”

When I signed up for the retreat I wasn’t sure I would last a day. After a day or two, there were several participants who decided to quit. The long hours of sitting completely still in meditative posture were punishing for bodies not used to this discipline.

I realized that everything we were required to do was the same discipline monks lived by. The regime had cleansing effects on the body and the mind. The silence, minimal amount of food, and the short hours of sleep were easy to adjust to. The hardest and most challenging was sitting for long hours in silence and practicing meditation. My body was complaining and coming up with all sorts of excuses to quit or engage in fantasy and daydream.

Midway into the retreat I began to enjoy the enveloping silence and my calm and collected mind, whether in mediation or engaged in other activities. I realized how the mind is constantly chattering even in our private moments. By not talking and engaging in any form of conversation, I realized how much of our ordinary waking time is spent in a trivial talk, from complaining to gossiping, blaming, to criticizing, and worse arguing, cursing, or defaming others.

“Sometimes, when we are in a conflict, and we don’t know what to say, we are better off saying nothing. It takes greater discipline to keep quiet than lash out in anger or frustration.”

Our tongue becomes the mouthpiece of our chattering mind. It is incredible how as simple as spending quiet moments can help collect our thoughts and put things around us or whatever is happening in our lives in a better perspective.
Finding peace begins inside, in our mind, in our being. The chaos and turmoil in the world may very well be the manifestations of the conflicts in our minds and the hatred in our hearts. We clamor for peace but in the process, we pollute our minds with the kind of language we use to push our agenda and get attention.

Sometimes, when we are in a conflict and we don’t know what to say, we are better off saying nothing. It takes greater discipline to keep quiet than lash out in anger or frustration. It is not enough to hold back strong negative emotions and bite our lips, we must find true peace in our mind and in our heart, least the pent up emotions find unhealthy expressions in our physical and mental health.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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