This week I have laryngitis. When I called my mother with my raspy voice, she figured, “It must be caused by the heat and humidity.”

I told her, “I think it’s God sending a message that I talk too much and it would be good to be quiet for a few days.”

She laughed, “He should have told you that 10 years ago.”

She’s probably right. A month or so ago I was trying to guide my mother as she maneuvered her sore hip into the passenger seat of my car. “Put your hand here. Hold on there. Be careful where you step. Slow down. Don’t shuffle. Lift your feet.”

She said, “Susan, you sure are bossy.”

She’s probably right.

What is this pressured speech we so often feel compelled to express? And how about the interrupting we do, not hearing another as our minds race into our own next sentence?

Thanks to my illness, I can now get curious about my reaction to contribute to every conversation. Perhaps when that arrogance arises convincing us that what we have to say will elevate the discussion, or improve the silence, it might serve us to ask, “Is that true? Are my thoughts that important?”

Since Monday I have been practicing not talking, a simple project, one might assume. Yet holding my tongue is not easy. As someone who loves to chat, I have begun one of the most difficult spiritual disciplines I have ever tackled.

When I wrote to my brother Mike about this obviously arduous path to enlightenment, he pointed out, “Great news. Save your breath. You’ll learn a lot by listening.”

Here’s what I’ve learned so far in only three days.

Things seem to be working quite well for our adult married daughter who, as it turns out, does not need my brilliant advice on how to reach deep sleep and dream states during her third trimester with twins.

Oh, I wanted to explain about arranging a pillow between the knees, how you curl up on one side, place the pillow in front of the bottom leg with the top leg bent over it just so, how you move the pillow around or up or down, how you find just the right puffiness for your height and body type, how you reorganize said pillow after you toss and turn again and again or roll in and out of bed five times.

With my vast experience of birthing two single children, surely I could have helped this mother of multiples. Yet I could barely squeak out a few empathic grunts, “Uh-huh. Mmm.”

Of course, she and her several pregnant girlfriends have discovered how to renew, rest and relax, offering me a lesson in humility. Imagine: The next generation created collective women’s wisdom without the grand benefit of my input.

Here’s what else the practice of non-talking has taught me.

Our 27-year-old son, a New York City pastry chef for the past five years, recently reported, “We’ve had some conflict here and, you know, it’s because we’re not coming together as an ‘us.’ It’s important to work as a team in the kitchen.”

I scratched out, “Hmm.”

He said, “Really, Mom, it’s not about one person’s ego. We each have to coordinate, cooperate, cover for each other. No restaurant is a one-person show, you know?”

I couldn’t speak the normal, “Yes, I know. I’ve been trying to encourage teamwork for years.”

It takes courage, believe me I understand, to restrain “I-told-you-so.” But when we do, zip-the-lip practices can teach us trust. Sons do mature and find their own mommy-free voices. Grace happens, has a way of showing up in the world, without our pushing or sharing our wonderful insights.

Tuesday I canceled a mindfulness session that I facilitate and Wednesday I postponed a yoga class I teach. “My” students sent an e-mail to day they’ve meditated regardless and stretched on their own. In my whispering-imposed vacation, I see that I do not have to lead, that people will grow and transform, with no words from me.

And my mother? She loves peace and quiet. She cheered when I told her about my laryngitis. “Ha! So you can’t tell your husband what to do. He must be thrilled.”

She’s probably right. Today I can’t ask him if that’s true. That’s OK. What I can do is pay attention to those many instants the impulses arise to open my mouth. I can experience all those moments right before I would otherwise freely offer a question or dole out unsolicited advice. Rather for now, I feel the intention to jump in or jump up and instead, stop, stay still. Each day I am getting more comfortable with this great discomfort.

Silence is loud and clear. When we hush our human chatter, we can better hear a greater divine plan. And whether I can say so or not, as the ancient Desiderata prayer notes, “no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

 

Susan Lebel Young teaches yoga and mindfulness and is the author of “Lessons From a Golfer: A Daughter’s Story of Opening the Heart.” She can be reached at: [email protected]