Do you find yourself jabbering on and on about nothing? Do you exaggerate in order to entertain others? Do you try to impress others with your “smarts” by talking about things you have limited knowledge, but wish you did?
It all comes down to intention (as does everything). Sharon Salzberg, Insight Meditation teacher, suggests that we imagine a time when we’ve felt the need to gossip. Initially, neither act on the desire nor push it away, but rather sit with the feeling, wait. Think “will saying what I have the urge to say right now really serve my goals in relationship with this person and in my life?” If the answer is “yes,” go ahead, but if the answer is “no,” you haven’t said anything to that point so there’s a gain to staying quiet. The key here, I think, is to take that moment (the gap) to evaluate your intention for what may be frivolous talk or gossip.
Uma says: Don’t you hate that?
Uma: Uncomfortable silences. Why do we feel it’s necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?
John: I don’t know. That’s a good question.
Uma: That’s when you know you’ve found somebody special. When you can just shut the f*%@ up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.
Writing this article brings me to my time at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center where we practiced 24-hours of silence. That means no talking, during class or meals or passing someone on a trail. I’ve done this before at a 6-day silent retreat at Spirit Rock. It can be uncomfortable and jarring at first, especially at mealtime. But, as time goes by, it gets more comfortable and actually welcomed the silence. It’s important to take a periodic break from the oral chatter which is often just an extension of the inner chatter.