making space for the unspoken

There is a language that dwells in silence, and that speaks to the deepest understanding humans possess. You know it, are fluent in it. You see it when your child closes their fingers, or your husband shrugs one shoulder just enough for the movement to be visible to a long-wed wife. You use it yourself with a frown, a hesitation to lay your hand down, an inward breath halfway along the supermarket aisle.

This is the real language of people. It brings us together even while words are shoving us apart. And we are losing it.

So many of our youth can not bear silence. They fill it with words and images and tiny light-flashes that change the frequency of their minds. You've seen them, sitting in groups, texting themselves away, ignoring each other unless it's to take a selfie together. And you've probably thought they should put down their phones and talk to each other.

I wonder if what they most need is to put down their phones and be silent together instead.

To create a space around and between themselves where the deep language of body and ancestral knowing and instinct and empathy can flourish into rich, soulful conversation.

I have heard of girls pretending to text while in each other's company because they can't bear the pauses between talking. I wonder whether they fear something, or if they are only uneducated in the grace of quietude? And I wonder, how do they feel when they are sitting alone? Do they listen to the language of their breath, their body's subtle movement? Do they feel the gentle weight of a thousand mothers laying wishes on their bones? Or do they only hear the echo of words?


  1. i had a conversation about this exact thing---the fear of silence, the lack of real, deep observation and being-with that is so pervasive now---just yesterday. a world full of people like mad parrots, arching and preening ceaselessly before the mirrors of their phone or computer screens, squawking constantly and all at once. brittle, powerless, narcissistic, externally validated. and lonely. sometimes i have a desperate desire that we should all put our phones into a basket upon entering public spaces and embrace the people nearest us for 5 solid minutes, just breathing with them silently, before doing anything else there.

    1. It is a real shame, I think because it is showing that people have been missing something in their lives which they feel endless media connection replaces. I want to be clear I'm not talking about general internet use (I myself am endlessly grateful for the blessings of the internet) but the way in which youth seem so thoroughly and desperately addicted to staying in contact with each other all the time, even during class, even when they are in the company of friends.

  2. My own grown children do this. I finally told my daughter one time that there was no point in her coming to visit if she wasn't going to actually be here.
    I've been reading several books lately about this. Books, interestingly enough called "Stillness" by Richard Mahler, "Solitude" by Anthony Store, "Party of One" by Anneli Rufus, "Celebrating Time Alone" by Lionel Fisher, and a handful of others. All of them say, and I agree, that our world is starving for silence.
    I've worked hard to create a quiet life. I love it. It's interesting, though, how often I feel like I have to defend it.