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The Silence Rule

The Silence Rule of Monks Contemplative

The Purpose of this Rule is not to make our lives easier, more pleasant, or more fun. It is to enhance, empower, and embrace our commitment to our spiritual path and all that it means. It is to discipline us. We acknowledge that this Rule will be, even already is, a nuisance, even a discomfort. We don’t care. Each of us recognizes that, over time, we inevitably will jointly and individually whine about this Rule, but we acknowledge that no one cares about our whining, and we agree that it is appropriate that no one should care about our whining.

This Rule is not because we have lost our voices.

This Rule is not punishment for one or both of us.

This Rule is part and parcel of our joint, shared, beloved Sadhana.

(Parenthetically … we have each observed that when we are apart and communicating by email or cell phone messaging, we are consistently polite and thoughtful. We think that may be in part because writing takes more time and concentration than speaking, so we are more aware of what we are saying or writing. Thus, we both agree it is too easy when speaking aloud just to allow words to pour out of our mouths before the heart has had a chance to censor them. So, we agree that a principal reason for this Silence Rule is to get our minds used to always asking our hearts “Is it okay if I say this?”)

The Rules

When the Rule is active, we are silent. That’s it.

We may talk freely to the cat.

We may talk freely on the telephone when we have properly considered the call, incoming or outgoing, to be necessary.

We may talk freely to other people, like guests, neighbors, postal carriers, delivery drivers. That is to say, even when the Rule is active, our lives continue, and so we must adapt, wisely.

We may ask each other questions or make comments that are routine, short to express, and short to answer (by “short” is meant no more than, say, ten words). Like: Have you seen the cat? I am taking a walk. I am driving into town. I am cooking beef bourguignon, want some?

Any question, response, statement, or comment longer than, say, ten words must be written, not spoken. Obviously, nothing on this page applies to emergency or extraordinary circumstances, like “Help!”

If for some reason, a question, response, statement, or comment must be longer than ten words, but must be spoken and not written, we are to introduce it by asking, “May I speak?” And we must respect the answer, whatever it is. No frowning, no eye rolling, no grimacing. That said, whatever the answer, it shall be delivered politely.

Either one of us may call for imposition of the Rule at any time. No explanation is necessary. The call for imposition shall be made politely and wisely. In no case shall the Rule be imposed until we both agree that it should be imposed.

Likewise, once imposed, the Rule remains in place until we both agree to lift it.

Unless agreed otherwise by both of us, the Rule is automatically lifted at 3:00 PM, and remains lifted until the following morning, when one of us should politely ask the other "Silence?" Two heads nodding yea or nay are sufficient answer. If our heads refuse to nod in unison, the Rule remains lifted.

Whatever the circumstances, we both agree always to consider carefully before we open our mouths to speak, conscious of Saint Benedict’s use of the Latin word taciturnitas: the human quality of being quiet.

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Updated June 20, 2022

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