The Power of Silence

There was so much for all of us to think about this past week that it’s almost impossible to single out one thing. It’s almost impossible to know where to start.

My brother Timothy reminded me that the mystics like to speak of a dimension of experience that is “wordless.” He told me that in the wordless space, our truest identity is revealed. He went on to say that at some level, we all exist first in silence, and only after that, in words. He said maybe searching for the right word (as I wrote about last week), or the right thought, is first an invitation to go to a place of no words or no thoughts. Clear your mind of the distraction of words and thoughts, he said, and discover what emerges from that place. Whatever words are likely to emerge will come from your deepest self.

As I sat and tried to clear my mind of all that I heard this past week—from the now infamous hot mic bus video, to the back and forth of the debates, to the screaming on cable TV, to the panic I heard in friends’ voices about the division in our country, to the stories of gloom and doom that bombard us on an hourly basis on social media—this is what I discovered:

I discovered a feeling of hope, a feeling of joy, and a feeling of peace. I found myself feeling inspired by all of the people who used their voices this past week for good. I was especially moved by the multitudes of men who spoke up about what masculinity is and isn’t, and about what it means to them to be a good man. I was inspired by the millions of women who bravely used their voices to recount their own experiences with sexual assault. That gave us a chance to see bravery in real-time and it gave us a window into the prevalence of these kind of experiences.

This was indeed a teachable week. This was a week to be quiet and a week to be heard. It was a week to talk about gender, about manners, about behavior, about what is and isn’t “locker room behavior,” about language, about bullying, about right and wrong. It was also yet another chance to talk about our politics, our divisions, and yes, our common humanity.

It was a week where a female presidential candidate complimented the man on his children, and the man complimented the woman for being a tough fighter, for never giving up or giving in. It was a week of no words, and also of so many using their words to inform and to inspire.

As the week came to a close, we heard speeches telling us that this is indeed our moment and that we are all approaching a day of reckoning. Where do we stand, the speechmakers asked? What do you stand for, they wondered? Can you stand up?

This is indeed a moment for all of us. It is a moment to take a page from the mystics. Go beyond words. Go beyond thoughts. Go beyond politics, fear and rhetoric. Go into your own wordless experience. Be quiet. Be still. Then, and only then, will you know where you stand, what you think, and how you will be able to make sense of what was and what is.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. What about you?

About the Author

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Maria Shriver is a mother of four, a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalist and producer, a six-time New York Times best-selling author, and an NBC News Special Anchor covering the shifting roles, emerging power and evolving needs of women in modern life. Since 2009, Shriver has produced a groundbreaking series of Shriver Reports that chronicle and explore seismic shifts in the American culture and society affecting women today. Shriver was California’s First Lady from 2003 to 2010 and, during that time, she spearheaded what became the nation's premier forum for women, The Women's Conference. Shriver's work is driven by her belief that all of us have the ability to be what she calls Architects of Change -- people who see a problem in their own life or the community around them, then step out of their comfort zone and do what it takes to create the solution. Like her page on Facebook or follow her on Instagram.

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