The 8-Fold Path – First Step: Limit Talking

Talking. Some of us love to talk. Others of us talk very little. My mother was a great talker. My dad can go for hours without saying a peep. And if we aren’t talking there are certainly those around us who are. Then again, often our mouths might not be moving but we are talking a mile a minute in our heads.

To live daily in the silence, we must limit the talking. To enjoy the physical and spiritual benefits of silence, we must rein in our desire to talk — both to others and to ourselves.

That doesn’t mean we have to give up being friendly. Heavens no! Silence produces joy and happiness. Which means we should be friendly, sharing that joy and happiness with others. Instead of talking, our entire demeanor should be radiating joy and happiness.

But isn’t talking being friendly, you may be asking. And, yes, it frequently is. I’m not saying to eliminate friendly or positive conversation. I’m saying we need to be mindful of our talking and eliminate the unnecessary chatter.

When I was on retreat and walking the grounds or was in the library, I’d encounter others. Sometimes I’d come across a work crew. The understanding was there was to be no talking. We waved and smiled. There was no verbal communication. Those physical signs communicated plenty. There was no need to add words.

The same in the workplace. How many conversations are just idle chatter or, worse, gossip? Talk that is not positive. Talk that is not life-giving.

The goal of living daily in the silence is to better your life: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And the easiest way to begin is to cut down on talking. Talking out loud and talking in your head.

Talking creates a lot of noise. It is however very often necessary and we’ll address more about talking and situations in the next four posts. Today the goal is simply to cut down on the amount of chatter we are putting out of our mouths and allowing in our minds. So how do we do that?

The first step is to resolve to not talk unless you have to. Resolve is important. You are telling yourself what you want.

The second step is to listen more. If you are listening — really listening — then you can’t be talking. So when you say, “Hi! How are you?” Listen to what the person tells you. Tune in to the other person. Don’t let your brain run ahead with what you want to tell them.

The third step is to put the focus on the other person, and take the focus off yourself.

Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People tells us the secret in doing so is to let the other person talk to you. Get the other person to tell you about him or herself. Which means you have to truly listen. And listening means no talking.

Talking puts the focus on us. It’s an essentially selfish act. It strokes the ego. The real prize, though, is letting the other person talk and perhaps he or she will praise you.

Because no one listens anymore. If you stop talking and listen, people will notice — and they’ll think you’re the best person on the planet.

There are times when we must talk. But just as often opportunity will present itself so we can then let the other person do most of the talking.

Step four is to clear the talking in our heads. This is the more difficult step. Because our brain doesn’t like to sit around and do nothing. It will pick up a snippet of conversation and begin worrying it like a dog worrying a bone and suddenly you’ll find yourself getting all worked up or agitated or angry over something that is most likely nothing.

We will deal with the mind in more detail in steps seven and eight of the 8-Fold Path. For now, when your mind is running away with interior dialogue, stop focusing on the dialogue and instead focus on something around you: your work, the clouds, a picture you like, your breathing, anything that will for you break that mental chatter.

The path to silence in our everyday lives, and reaping the benefits silence gives,  begins with quieting our own noise machine: our mouths and our minds. For some of us, that will be relatively easy. For perhaps most of us, it will be a difficult task. Difficult, but not impossible. In fact, very possible.

As always, comments are welcome. Until next time, encourage others to talk while you listen. And don’t forget to redirect that chatter in your head. Cheers!

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