This will be my last “Training Day” post. One week from today, I’ll be in Paris and will have already begun my three months of silence. I’ll continue to write about my experiences, but my Silent Training Wheels will have come off.
Six months of silence for one day a week has been a fascinating and frustrating experience. Reactions from people who have found out about this whole “not talking for three months” business, have been varied. Some have been stymied. Some have been astounded. Some have rolled their eyes. Some have told me that I won’t make it. Some have encouraged me. Some have been envious. Some have judged my motives. Some have tried to put their own rules on what are acceptable and not acceptable forms of communication while I’m being silent. Inevitably, the ultimate question of “WHY?” has come up numerous times. Now that I’ve been forced to answer this question, I think I’ve reached a bit of clarity on why I’m doing this. I think.
Aside from the accomplishment of walking one of the oldest medieval pilgrimages in the world and hopefully experiencing what the Celts called a “thin place” (where the gap between the Creator and the created becomes thinner), it seemed like the perfect experience to help recalibrate my soul before I turned 50.
But then a friend of mine got me to practice intentional silence for only three minutes a day for a month. The impact was meh. But I discovered that silence was something I secretly yearned for. That month got me thinking about the potentially transformational power of silence on a larger scale. (So I guess the impact of three minutes a day wasn’t “meh” after all.)
So why am I spending three months in silence walking The Camino then staying in a Spanish monastery on an island off the coast of the Sahara Desert?
I TALK TOO MUCH
Growing up, people in authority always told me that I talked too much. These days, I get paid for talking. (Nah Nah Nah Boo Boo!) But, somewhere deep inside I still believe that I talk too much. Actually, I think most people talk too much. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to the quiet ones. There’s something about the quiet ones that I envy. Maybe being silent for three months is something I hope will edge me towards whatever it is the quiet ones possess.
My “gift of the gab” has helped to endear me to many throughout my life. It’s also been the fuel for others to dislike me intensely. I’ve gotten out of stuff because of talking. I’ve gotten into stuff because of talking. At this point in my life, I’m just exhausted of convincing anyone of anything. I’m tired of talking. But I still love asking. During my 800 KM trek, I’ll most definitely be trying to figure out ways of continuing to ask about the lives of others. Because to me, nothing is more important than being given the privilege of hearing another’s story.
I TALK TOO MUCH CRAP
I think we all fill the air with nonsense. And sometimes I feel like the captain of that ship! As a professional communicator, I cringe when I think back on how much I’ve polluted the air and the airwaves, with complete rubbish. And as a professional eavesdropper, (a skill I’ve developed as a result of being a bit of an autodidactic sociologist as well as being a tad A.D.D.) it seems that EVERYONE is guilty of communicating pure negativity, especially about other humans. So I’m hoping that this trek will help to reboot my system and I’ll come back talking way less crap. I’m hoping that the complete absence of verbal crap in my life will create a new appreciation for communicating that which is “true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (I dare you to ask me where that came from!)
I NEED TO BECOME A BETTER MAN/GRANDPA
I’m a slow learner eh. And I’ve discovered throughout the last 50 years of life that it usually takes some kind of life altering event to help me GET IT! So I’m hoping that I come back with at least a clearer vision of the kind of man I need to be – the kind of grandfather I want to be! Look, if I could have made the changes I want to see in myself without trying something like this, I would have done it already. I realize that there’s a fine line between accepting who you are and desiring to be better. I’ve never felt more comfortable in my own skin that I do at this point in my life, but I desire to be a better man so that I might be a GREAT grandfather. (BTW – Elora Rose Marshall was born last Tuesday September 13th around 5:30 PM and weighed in at a healthy 7 pounds and 473 ounces or something like that. Men don’t care about ounces. Women care. Because only women can feel the pain of other women who’ve just pushed a watermelon out of their hoohoo.)
I NEED TO SHUT UP TO HEAR WHAT NEEDS TO BE SAID
As I’ve said earlier, I’m pretty stinkin’ good at introspection, but getting below introspection is brutal! So far, shutting up for a day a week has forced me to look below introspection. And that’s a scary place to hang out for any length of time. But what I’m discovering is that there’s stuff I’ve spent decades suppressing because “who am I to know anything, to be anyone of importance, to say anything really worth saying?” So I became the village idiot – the class clown – the guy who says what other people won’t say. But during the last six months I’ve discovered that I’ve actually got stuff that needs to be said. And if no one else reads any of my rants and diatribes, let it be known that this has been the most soul cleansing thing I’ve ever done. (And I haven’t even begun my journey. Or have I? Muah Ah Ahhhhh!)
I’M HOPING THAT THIS WILL ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO…
and BE Teachable.
And I believe it all starts with confession.
There’s a sacred scripture that says “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” So far – me confessing stuff has been unbelievably healing. I know it ain’t been the real juicy stuff that I probably need to confess, but I have a feeling that I’m just getting warmed up.
Now, before some of you get your knickers in a knot, this scripture does not say “Confess your sins to one another so that you may be FORGIVEN.” If there is a God, then God don’t need no help forgiving someone. In other words, I don’t believe that we need to go to another person to seek forgiveness from God. I think we should go to God to seek forgiveness from God. (If that’s your thing.) Novel concept eh? It’s the same concept for us humans seeking forgiveness from another human. We need to go to the person that we want to forgive us, and ask forgiveness from THAT person. Not get all Grade 8 and ask someone else to ask that person if they’ll forgive us.
Also, some of you might get hung up on the word “sin.” (Especially Millennials, because as we all know, Millennials don’t need no stinking forgiveness because they’re wrongs aren’t wrongs because there’s no such thing as wrong!) The word “sin” is just an old English word meaning to miss the bullseye of perfection. An old translation of the Sacred Scriptures actually says, “Confess your FAULTS to one another…” And who among us is without fault? Right Mr. Trump?
(As an aside, The Apostle James was the one who wrote “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” The Camino de Santiago is The Way to the burial place of St. James. Whaaaaat?)
To close this last segment of Sacred Silence Training Days here on CAMINOCONFESSIONS.COM, I need to confess something. I’m scared! I’m scared I’ll fail and accidentally talk. I’m scared I’ll be forced to quit before the end because of my bad knees. I’m scared something will happen back home that will require I quit and come back. I’m scared that I’ll miss out on some incredible interactions because I can’t speak. But most of all, I’m TERRIFIED that I’ll come back and be the same schmuck I am today. That I’ll just slip back into life where I left off and continue on without any tangible difference. THAT scares the hell outta me. SACRED Silence has become SCARED Silence.
(Anyone see what I see in this pic?)
THIS WEEK’S CONFESSION(s): I talk too much / I talk too much crap / I need to become a better man / I leave soon and I’m scared
(Stay tuned for my report on how getting through customs went without speaking. And how will I communicate with the French for the first few days in Paris when I can’t speak the language… and can’t speak? Mon dui!)