Edgar told me I talk too much. Forget whether the six year old, brown eyes locked on to my own, had overstepped when he said so. He just repeated what I already knew. Truth should be a good thing, not dependent upon propriety. Still, the truth of this comment slipping out of his big lips stung.

I should have picked up the clues along the way. . . Dozing children whose heads bang down on their desks when they pass out during my lessons. Friends who nod off during the best parts of my confessionals. . .Too much for me meant quantity – over-sharing during my floor time – and also not watching what I allowed to escape from my mouth. They call it inside voice for a reason and once it’s out, it’s out.

Will Rogers once said  “never miss a good chance to shut up.” How I wish I had thought of this quote just yesterday as I was driving in the car with the boys, their aunt, and my partner. We pulled up to an intersection, the car idling as we waited for the light to change. I started making comments about the strip mall next to us, what I thought of the paint color, and what I thought of the shoppers going in. One of the boys put on his ear buds and the other started talking to his aunt. Shut up comes in many forms.

“Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words.”  That’s how William Faulkner describes it. In that moment I saw again that I talked too much, and how much I could add by saying nothing. My discovery snuck up, kicked me just hard enough and offered a two word solution – be quiet – with utter economy. The light turned green and away we went.

“Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button. Shutting it down. All of it.” says Khaled Hosseini. He is a smart guy, I’m sure. But silence has been, for me, a very loud place. So what’s the wisdom here? I want peace. I crave tranquility. I know that just because I think it, I don’t need to say it. Where did I ever get the opposite idea?

Lao Tzu says “silence is a source of great strength.” Good enough for me. If I express it as a theory and then just practice, maybe the proof will come – to show that if I’m quieter, I am better at hearing. If I am better at hearing, I increase acuity. Since I am not talking, I might instill confidence that what you have shared won’t be as likely to leak out.

Here’s my latest theory: If I grow quieter on the outside, I will hear my inside voice. I will, because I listen, get wiser, more fun. I will find depth the way water finds depth. Who knows? Today is day one. Start by holding my tongue. Holding it till it hurts. I will keep secrets safe – to share and to celebrate, when the time is right.


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2 Responses to Inside

  1. Anonymous June 24, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    Yes, humans have been trying to understand this for a very long time. It’s true a shock can have a brief effect, and under the right conditions, it might be a useful place to start. But in the end this is still relying on accident, on activating some reflex. More interesting, to me, is the idea of actually affecting those inner structures which keep me in the dark, so to speak. (Thus the ancient idea of awakening?) A far more subtle process — and the mind is only part of the equation, wouldn’t you say?

  2. Susan June 24, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    There’s an experience you describe here which has real resonance in me. I’ll call it a highly unusual quality of attention, which seems to arrive (and dissipate) spontaneously — one of those moments of sudden insight, to use your word, sudden clarity or intuition. It’s as if my usual way of thinking suddenly gives way, and without its chatter something much more meaningful appears. And, as you said, vital information comes, or I perceive what has been there all along but I never noticed.

    It has raised for me some compelling questions. What is going on in a person when something like that occurs? Why should that clarity appear/disappear? Is that state a way one could learn to be, rather than something that only occurs by accident?

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