I have TMJ problems. My jaw doesn’t line up properly. Overuse, and the ligaments in my neck hurt. The more I talk, the more pain I’m in. It isn’t a large pain. It isn’t terrible. But it is just annoying enough to keep me mindful.
I’ve become very conscious of everything I say. It is as if I have a bank account and I’m being careful of what I spend. Each sentence needs to be worthwhile.
I remember when a teacher in junior high had an assignment that we had to come up with a list of just twenty words. These were (hypothetically) the only words we would be allowed to say for the rest of our lives. This is something like that.
If it hurts to talk a lot, then you have to pick your words carefully or suffer the consequences. What do you have to say? What can be dropped?
This is totally in line with the Buddhist idea of right speech. Every word you say needs to be true, kind, and helpful. Is it necessary? Is it useful? Or is it mindless chatter, meant to fill up the silence? Is it gossip?
There is a great saying that “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.” (Maurice Switzer)
There is a Ghandi quote as well that I’ve also heard attributed to the Quakers. “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”
We are afraid of silence. We fill our houses and our heads with noise. We have iPods and cell phones attached to our ears constantly. Every store has music playing. The TV blaring on, all the time. When was the last time you were silent for longer than 20 minutes, and not asleep?
This disorder has become my teacher.