“Say only what is true and useful and timely. If any one of these criteria isn’t met, then silence is the wise form of speech. This is such a simple formula and easy to recall even in moments of strong emotion, but it is very hard to execute even under the best of conditions because the grasping mind corrupts speech faster than it does action.” - Phillip Moffitt
Green Gulch is now finishing day 5 of the sesshin (pronounced say-sheen). It just keeps getting quieter. All residents are invited to participate however they can and support those sitting as best as possible. This includes noble silence, or what is often referred to as functional speech. Speaking only when absolutely necessary. For those sitting 10 periods of meditation, that is not often. For those of us working jobs, there may be a bit more. But not much. With strong apprehension, I thought, “who will I talk to? how will we connect? what will we all do with ourselves?!!”
I bumped right into this form like hitting my head on a low door frame. In other words, surprised! I was amazed at how much emotion came up in response to this anticipation of silence I didn’t sign up for. It calls to that desire I often have to do the bare minimum. Like, “hey I am not in the sesshin, why do I have to follow these uncomfortable rules?” It also called strongly to my social fears. As one friend put it today, “without talking to others, how will I know I am ok?” I am reminded constantly how I depend on others for so much. For things I don’t think I already possess.
As the days passed I found myself snuggling into the silence like a warm blanket. It is so safe when you are silent. You have so much less opportunity to hurt people or yourself. Of course you can’t be silent all the time but it is an amazing practice to notice sound. As the tenzo (head of kitchen) said, use sound as a teaching tool. When you make sound and you notice it, you may realize that you are distracted and doing something without care.