The preamble: When I was much younger, I was the proud owner of Samantha . She was a doll of the Victorian era, and as such, the make-at-home activity that came with her was a cross-stitch sampler. After much struggle (and much help from my mom), I became the doubly proud owner of a small pillow emblazoned with tiny x’s reading: Actions Speak Louder Than Words. Which I promptly gifted to my mom that Christmas. There began the fodder for her admonishment upon my various actions of teens and twenties “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” – often with a sad downturned shake of her head. Brutal. I hated that pillow. I was clumsy! I was absent minded! I was young! Believe my words! I couldn’t understand her insistence.
The relevance: After 8 days of silence in community with strangers, on the morning before we were to speak again, that pillow suddenly became so clear. I got it. After a week of silent full-on interactions with others, of coordinating manual labor, meals, bathroom sharing, common area use, and many tiny other daily activities – words suddenly seemed a bit, well, unnecessary. I had whole relationship arcs including disputes, resolutions, space and reconciliation. I deeply cared for people. I finally understood the concept of the overlay of words, and how words can be anything – but actions imbued with that much intention aren’t.
The lesson: Returning from retreat, I quickly noticed how the return of words left me using my body in relation to others in a lazy way. The juxtaposition made it clear just how much I forgot about my body, and interacted with others from the chin up. Of course, there is body language going on all the time at varying levels of consciousness. How to move that from being so unconscious? How to move it beyond flirting, getting a job, or detecting lying? How to make it less lazy?
It can seem like words are all we have to connect us – in fact several well respected counselors will actually tell us this. But I’d like to put forward the theory of intentional action. And that attempting this in our regular lives allows us to be more connected to ourselves and the moment. More able to feel our feet and breath in a day. Better able to respond to situations as we might be working towards. More grounded.
For a week – can you move through your day as if you had no verbal communication (sign language or otherwise)?
“A seeker of silences am I, and what treasure have I found in silences that I may dispense with confidence?”