Some of us, as we deepen our practice, may wish to spend an entire day in silence. This may be difficult for many, yet it may also expand our capacity to listen more closely to the still, small voices within. This will be a day where you may walk, observe, eat, meditate, and rest if you like. It will be a day to refrain from most other activities, including writing, reading, watching television, drawing, or listening to music.

Because you will not be speaking for the entire day, some advance preparation will be required. Ideally, this day should be spent alone at home or at some retreat setting. If your household circumstances require you to be at home in the presence of other people, arrange with them beforehand to allow you to remain undisturbed by requests for speech or activity. Make sure all your external obligations have been taken care of, acquiring whatever simple food you will need during the day. Feel free to disconnect the telephone.

When you awake on that day of silence, begin your mindfulness even as you get out of bed. Let your normal morning activities, such as washing, brushing your teeth and hair, and getting dressed, becomes the focus of your awareness. You might try slowing down each activity to observe the process more precisely. Use simple, silent labels to keep your attention focuses in the present moment, such as "washing, washing," "dressing, dressing," "eating, eating," etc.

As the day progresses, you will undoubtedly encounter moments of restlessness. Without judging or condemning, observe the sensation of restlessness as it arises in your body. You may feel an overpowering desire to move, to go do something, to get something to eat, to preoccupy yourself with some activity. Temporarily postpone this movement, and observe how it feels to momentarily deny the impulse to become busy. Let yourself sit a moment in stillness before unconsciously jumping up to do anything. Allow any urge to arise at least three times before mindfully acting on it.

Periodically throughout the day, you may wish to mediate in your place or refuge with the breath meditation. Other times, you may simply sit quietly and listen to your body. Let yourself listen for the subtle changes, thoughts, desires, and feelings that wash through your heart and mind as you sit or walk quietly. What do you notice? Your perceptions may reveal new and interesting details about yourself or your home that you normally pass by every day.

Take the time to explore whatever arises in your eyes and ears, in your touch, smell and taste. When you eat, eat slowly, noting the sensations as you prepare the food, as you chew and swallow your meal, and as you clean up after the meal is finished.

As your usual routine has been slowed considerably, you may become aware of a sense of fatigue. This might in fact be a genuine need for rest, as you finally listen to the tiredness in your body — in which case you may wish to take a short nap.

However, fatigue may also signal a resistance to an unpleasant or painful state of mind or body. You don't wish to feel something unpleasant, so you become sleepy. If you recognize that the sleepy mind is actually a deep reluctance to feel something inside, you can take a few deep breaths, sharpen your concentration, and explore whatever seems to lie beneath the surface of your awareness.

The practice of silence allows one to become quiet and mindful, giving your wholehearted attention to yourself in this moment. This may at times fill you wish a sense of joy or well-being, or a feeling of peace. As you become still, you begin to drink from the fullness of your being.

At the end of the day, you may wish to offer a prayer or meditation of thankfulness for the rich fabric of experiences that you received through this time of stillness and silence.

Wayne Muller in Legacy of the Heart