Across this 3-part special, Katie talks with Justin Zorn & Leigh Marz co-authors of Golden The Power of Silence in a World of Noise. The book reveals how to go beyond the ordinary rules and tools of mindfulness. It’s a field guide for navigating the noise of the modern world—not just the noise in our ears but also on our screens and in our heads. Drawing on lessons from neuroscience, business, spirituality, politics, and the arts, Marz and Zorn explore why auditory, informational, and internal silence is essential for physical health, mental clarity, ecological sustainability, and vibrant community.
In part 3 we discuss how to repair our world, using silence as a powerful force for transformation and rethinking the structures which organise our lives.
Leigh Marz is a faculty member at CRR Global and a collaboration consultant and leadership coach for major universities, corporations, and federal agencies. In addition, she is a long time student of pioneering researchers and practitioners of the ritualized use of psychedelic medicines in the West. In her professional work, she has led diverse initiatives, including a training program to promote an experimental mindset among teams at NASA and a decade-long cross-sector collaboration to reduce toxic chemicals in products, in partnership with Green Science Policy Institute, Harvard University, IKEA, Google, and Kaiser Permanente. Leigh lives in Berkeley, California, with her husband and daughter.
Justin Talbot Zorn has served as both a policymaker and a meditation teacher in the U.S. Congress. A Harvard- and Oxford-trained specialist in the economics and psychology of well-being, Justin has written for the Washington Post, The Atlantic, Harvard Business Review, Foreign Policy, and other publications. Along with Leigh, he confounded Astrea Strategies, a consultancy that bridges contemplation and action, helping leaders and teams envision and communicate solutions to complex challenges. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with his wife and three children.
For over 18 years, CRR Global has accompanied leaders, teams, and practitioners on their journey to build stronger relationships by focusing on the relationship itself, not only the individuals occupying it. This leads to a community of changemakers around the world. Supported by a global network of Faculty and Partners, we connect, inspire, and equip change agents to shift systems, one relationship at a time
We believe Relationship Matters, from humanity to nature, to the larger whole.
KC – Katie Churchman
JZ – Justin Zorn
LM – Leigh Marz
[Intro 00:00 – 00:06]
KC – Hello and welcome back to the Relationship Matters podcast. We believe Relationship Matters, from humanity, to nature, to the larger whole. I’m your host, Katie Churchman, and over the next three episodes I’m talking with Justin Zorn and Leigh Marz, co-authors of Golden The Power of Silence in a World of Noise. The book, due to be released in May by Harper Collins Publishing, reveals how to go beyond the ordinary rules and tools of mindfulness. It’s a field guide for navigating the noise of the modern world, not just the noise in our ears but also on our screens and in our heads. Drawing on lessons from neuroscience, business, spirituality, politics, and the arts, Marz and Zorn explore why auditory, informational, and internal silence is essential for physical health, mental clarity, ecological sustainability, and vibrant community. In part three we’re zooming out even further and looking at silence as a tool for transformation. Across the conversation we’re exploring how silence can help us to repair our world and how it can help us to rethink the structures which organize our life. So without further ado I bring you Leigh Marz and Justin Zorn.
KC – Leigh, Justin, it’s great to have you back on the show, welcome.
LM – Thank you Katie, good to be here.
JZ – It’s a joy to be with you again.
KC – So today we’re building off the last two episodes and looking at silence as a tool for transformation. I guess I want to start with this idea of shared silence that you talk about in the book. How can we possibly be silent together? Because I guess my understanding was that silence is a solo sport.
LM – Yeah. You’re not alone in that and I think we would join you in that initial understanding. We were doing early interviews and asking people about the deepest silence they’d ever known and more often than not they were reporting moments where their silence was shared. When they were with other people or even many, many other people. And so we started to get this sense of ah, this is interesting. We, like many, have conflated this idea that silence means solitude and for some of us it does but then actually as we looked at our own lives and thought about the deepest silence we have ever known, they were always with other people. Or usually with other people, say. And that we find silence when it’s shared to be magnified.
JZ – Yeah. This is really one of the key ways that we want to reframe the meaning of silence as it’s understood in the culture in this book. And that’s this idea, as Leigh mentioned, that silence and solitude are often conflated, as we ask people what’s the deepest silence you’ve ever known as we’ve talked about in our previous parts here, we really expected people to talk about moments that were auditorily silent. But the most poignant moments of silence people described were often moments with other people. You know, moments of shared grief or taking in breathtaking beauty or moments of shock or moments of wonder. And what we found was that those were the moments when people would drop their obligations to verbalize, rationalize, entertain one another, analyze. And, you know, to go back to a theme we’ve been discussing with you, these are the times when people just become present.
KC – Silence is presence. There’s that theme again that’s been running throughout these three episodes. And so I guess I wonder, what’s the potential that you’ve found when we have shared silence, we’re silent together?
JZ - In the section of the book on quiet together we first talk about how at the US Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the folks who drafted the US constitution asked there to be a giant mound of dirt outside the convention hall, now constitution hall it’s known, so that you know the sounds of carriages and street vendors and conversations outside wouldn’t disturb their intense focus together. You know it’s not like they were going through monastic silence, we imagine they were probably yelling and even throwing things at each other given the social morays of the day. But they wanted to create these conditions where they could be silent. Have deep moments of silence to do their thinking. And we talk about some 200 30-something years later, I was legislative director for three democratic members of congress and worked as a policy advisor to the congressional progressive caucus and founded a meditation program, helped out congressman Tim Ryan, a democrat from Ohio, in brining that to being and I was one of the first meditation teachers in the program. And I was sort of the only person to be both a policy maker in Capitol Hill and a meditation teacher in that program so I had an unusual window into it because I really knew life there intimately. And at the same time I was guiding, I guess you’d say, or just helping out, a group of policy makers from both republicans and democrats, you know, conservatives and progressives alike, sitting in this room under an American flag with gold rim and fancy blue carpet and everyone wearing suits, taking this radical departure from the culture of the place which is usually constant talking and TV news blaring and alarms signaling when we’re supposed to take votes. And here we were just sitting in silence. I think there was about 35 of us just exploring how to make friends with our minds. But more than anything just being in the space together not talking, if it’s possible not even thinking so much. Just tuning into the silence. And for me observing that moment, there was a real shift in the energy. And it wasn’t a panacea, it wasn’t like that dealt with all the problems facing Capitol Hill and this and that, all that was still there, but to this word that we’ve used – prerequisite. It felt like finding that space of resetting, turning down the nervous system and tuning in together to the silence, felt like a pre-requisite to any other healing and reason and reconciliation that could really happen.
KC – That’s been a theme lately of the podcast, I’ve done a couple with Marita around slowing down, and slowing down doesn’t necessarily change anything but it creates space for that change to happen and it feels like silence is a tool for that.
LM – Absolutely. That’s absolutely a, there’s actually a moto I use for one of the four day deep retreats that I do with scientists who are working to remove harmful chemicals from our homes and our products and our environment. And we say ‘slow down, there isn’t much time’. Slow down, there isn’t much time because we have, at least in the United States, some 80,000 largely unregulated chemicals in our products and the way the system is set up here, you have to prove it’s harmful, not prove it’s safe so it’s just, the burden is on all the wrong places. So these scientists come together, these are scientists, government workers, sometimes from Europe as well, NGOs and manufacturers who are interested in addressing this topic. We go up to the Redwoods to really slow down because there isn’t much time. And whilst we do engage the data, we do talk about the impact, I’m just facilitating this, I’m not a chemist sharing this information but I’m facilitating their process, just getting them to slow down and be with this, the temptation is to perhaps share way more data than anyone could even process. But in this space of just slowing down, sinking into the importance of addressing this in a different way, that the answer not be the same old answers that they’ve reached for before, sort of whack-a-mole strategy of ban one chemical, tweak a module, get its cousin that’s just as bad or worse. They need to think way differently, way out of the box and around this bigger issue. And slowing down has been the thing that we’ve seen as being the most effective to take these big retreats. So some of the strategies that have been hatched out of these four days, they are currently the most effective strategies that are working to address harmful chemicals, more like families of chemicals rather than one at a time, came from that deep, deep silence and that slowing down that you and Marita have been talking about.
KC – Wow. I mean silence is a sort of solution to creative problems. It feels like there’s so much in silence, it’s healing, it’s something we can do together. Something that can help us to think outside the box. I’m wondering in terms of though, silence feeling awkward still in shared spaces. I love the idea of bringing it into lots of different places and I wonder how we might be able to encourage this because it doesn’t feel comfortable for many people to be silent alone, let alone kind of in a shared space.
LM – Oh I could tell you about some awkwardness. With my mom and my betty, her wife of 30-years. So as a family we were welcoming them from the Midwest, there moving, they packed up all their belongings and their cats, moved across the country to California to be with all of these grandbabies and we knew that they would stay with us actually on the first part of that trip for as long as it took, right? A few months or something like that. So they came and it was wonderful and they were helping with childcare and they were doing homework and they were helping with the carpooling and making chocolate chip bread, but what it didn’t take long for me to notice was that their contributions were huge but their devices, you know, they were like great guests but their devices were horrible guests because they were set on all these default settings, so every time that Betty took down a message it was like click, click, click, the key typing. And there’s ringtones and you know, whooshing and swooshing and then the heavy metal guitar riff that my mom had on. It was a cacophony of sound that I hadn’t come in contact with and my office is right beside their bedroom, and here we are, this once again, Justin and I are writing this book thinking who are we to be writing this book on silence when our lives were so noisy. How am I going to, however am I going to have this conversation, you know? What they’re doing, and we’re so excited about them moving out and yet here I am about to have this really challenging conversation, Mom and Betty, could we, could I turn these things off, do you want some help with that? And they said no, it’s fine. No, it doesn’t bother us. And then I had to confess that it was actually bothering me, hard for me. So they said ok, if that means that much to you dear we can change those settings or you can change those settings on my phone. So sometimes it is an awkward conversation to get to that point of silence, you know, it wasn’t what they need. I remember Betty told me that she thought to herself well I’ll just turn all those clicking, whooshing’s on when I move out. But she ended up not doing that. So, yeah, it wasn’t there need, it was my need, but they let me and I also checked in on that relationship to make sure that they really knew how much it meant to me, how much less agitated I felt, how nice it was to share a meal and not be interrupted by those tela-robocalls, you know, these things were not bothering them but they were bothering me and because we’re close they made that difference. And the same can be extrapolated on a team, you know, not being able to focus on my content because we’re constantly on chat or everything is interrupted. So we take that lesson from my mom and Betty to the workplace and encourage, like Justin was saying, have real conversations to make some shared agreements that we can each find the quiet and the conversation that we need to get the work done.
JZ – We have a section about how to talk about quiet and this paradox about how finding shared silence often starts with more talking. You know, sometimes it’s a whole lot more conversation. And looking to Leigh’s mom and her Betty, that example, we point to some really simple best practices for how to have those kinds of conversations. You know, how to hold those conversations, how to approach them, because you’re right Katie, it can be really awkward. So the principles we talk about are first looking inward, you know, before you first confront someone else about not making so much noise or holding spaces for silence, do an audit of your own noise, what kind of noise are you creating? Do you have the credibility to bring this forward into the world or into your relationship or your community? Another principle we talk about is identifying your golden rules. Like we talk a lot in this book about what’s in our sphere of control, what’s in our sphere of influence and what’s in the everything else category? So one thing we really emphasize here in this work of quiet together is find what are your golden rules, what are the principles of how to guard the shared silence that you are going to abide by? Susan Griffin-Black, the co-CEO of EO Products which has become a really big natural products personal care company has this golden rule to never be on her phone or computer when someone is talking to her. You know, no multitasking when she’s with someone else. And it’s a pretty mighty thing she’s doing, having a big company she’s running. A third principle we offer is to look out for others, you know to champion other people’s quiet where it’s appropriate. If you see someone who maybe has less power than you do in an organization, maybe there’s less that’s in their sphere of influence or control, how can you work always in consultation with them to create the conditions for them to have the peace and the focus that they need?
LM – Yeah, Michael Barton was one of our interviewees, he was higher up in an organization than an analyst who didn’t have a lot of power and the organization was complaining about his inability to focus on his work, and he had an idea for how that could be addressed. And his idea, we love this one, was to have a red sash of fabric, like kind of think Miss America or something, a red sash that you might put over your neck to say almost like out of office, even though your body is right there, a lot of these workplaces they have open office workplaces to supposedly have collaboration and sparks and conversations and cross-pollination take place, but this analyst and many others complained about the inability to focus. So he suggested this red sash, Michael took it up the chain, got approval and for a bit there they used this red sash to honor the fact that that person was trying to focus and work deeply, and when they took it off they could be more in conversation. Because the sales people and the marketing people were always chit chit chit chit, you know, talking, and they didn’t really see the problem, but the analysts and the data people were having trouble focusing. So this is not because we think the red sash is the answer to all things because we certainly don’t and it wasn’t the answer in that company for very long either, but it opened a dialogue and got them thinking about creative ways and getting experimental about how to solve that issue about noise and silence and the ability to focus.
JZ – And that’s kind of indicative of our whole approach with respect to workplaces, you know, as Leigh mentioned, get experimental. To this whole idea that the silence can be uncomfortable as we talked about recently with you, you know, that it can be awkward, how can we find ways given how valuable the silence is to experiment with new innovations like that red sash that Michael Barton started. Launch your experiments, something like that red sash, whatever it might be. You know, it might be no email Fridays, it might be no meeting Wednesdays, might be changing some expectations around electronic devices. But launch the experiment and harvest the lessons learnt, refine it and iterate, make sure it’s safe to fail. These experiments aren’t meant to be perfect, they’re meant to be opportunities to learn and help the organization evolve in good ways.
KC – I love this.
LM – Yeah, I think if there’s one more thing I’d say it’s bring in humor, bring in some play for goodness sake. You can. We did interview the front woman for Rosin Coven, an umpteen piece musical troupe that defies categorization really, and her name is Midnight Rose and she talked about being in this 13-piece band and if anyone, with all of these very talented musicians right, but if everyone plays at the same time there’s no room for the music. There’s no space to hear the subtleties and things like that. So periodically when they’re in their practice sessions someone yells out ‘pumpernickel!’ and what does that mean? That means let’s thin out the process, let’s find the space in the music, let’s insert some silence, bring some silence so we can hear the musicality more. So there’s a totally eccentric band coming up with an eccentric idea which is to holler out pumpernickel, which we really discovered is the whole point of our book is to call pumpernickel on the whole wide world. We’re thinning out more space and silence in everything. So, you know, if you and your family or your workplace or your life with your friends can bring that play and yeah, it just makes it that much easier and helps address that awkward piece, you know, or maybe takes it on in a fun way.
KC – I love this noise audit idea and do your own noise audit, because I think it would be very easy to say well it’s not my fault, the world’s loud and noisy, there’s not much I can do, but actually what this does is create that accountability piece. Boundaries you were talking about there made me think, my husband and I had a holiday last year for a week and I challenged him to not look at this emails. And he was really struggling with that and I said look, why not tell them to call you on your personal phone if you’re really needed? And he said ok, I’ll give it a try. No one called him so he didn’t have to look at… but the mass of noise that comes in on emails because even if there’s one or two that are important you see the hundreds of other emails that aren’t. And I think he found a lot of quiet and space in that week that otherwise he wouldn’t have found? And so I just thought that was interesting as well, that sometimes we blame other people, we blame the noise, but actually what are we doing when we’re replying constantly, we’re creating it ourselves.
LM – Absolutely. Yeah, we have to look at where we’re engaging. We don’t often think our noise is noise, it’s sound. You know, it’s really important sound. My husband, when he audiotapes texts, he doesn’t think that’s noisy so I have to kind of say yeah that actually seems kind of noisy to me. So we have to kind of remind ourselves and each other that that is noise, experienced over here.
JZ – There’s this quote from the acoustical expert Arjun Shankar who says ‘sound is when you mow your lawn, noise is when your neighbor mows their lawn and music is when your neighbor mows your lawn.’
KC – Brilliant.
JZ – One thought that keeps coming up for me Katie on this noise audit, you know, sometimes when we talk about a noise audit in the context of say, an organization, you intuitively think of what are the decibel levels in the office and that sort of thing. Maybe what’s the volume of email. But what we challenge readers and really organizational leaders and members of teams to do in this book is to think more deeply about all the subtle kinds of noise that we create in an organization too, that might get ignored. And to think about really creative new, out of the box kinds of solutions, and none of this is really prescriptive like go and do this, but offer ideas and examples so that people can go and experiment. So brain storming is a big one within organizations, it’s often just really noisy which is to say that all the best perspectives aren’t necessarily being surfaced because there’s all sorts of dynamics of power within the group, where some people tend to dominate conversations and some people feel that kind of censorship, that kind of false silence that we talked about in the earlier discussion, that silence of censorship prevents people from really surfacing the best ideas. So one line we follow in a section we call ma on the job, ma being the traditional Japanese aesthetic principle of reverence for empty spaces in between, you know, ma on the job we take into brainstorming and what does that mean in practice in brain storming? It means, you know, that there’s an option to sleep on a question. To give it some space and some silence rather than needing to decide on it in the moment in the heat of conversation, maybe even the heat of argument. Revisit the inquiry in the next day. Or even consider non-verbal report outs, you know, post it not galleries rather than everyone shouting over each other. Make space in the deliberations so that quieter voices and more marginalized voices can come forth and maybe come to the center. This is, in a very every day, sort of mundane way, part of how we understand that silence is part of the work of justice.
KC – Mmm. Love that. The ma of the everyday. And I think, I’m just seeing now, silence is really an ally of intercultural intelligence. Linda Berlot talked about that a lot in season 3, even Urie had an example of this when they were both co-leading in Japan, and Faith asked a question and she was shocked because everyone went silent. She asked again and everyone was sitting there thinking and I just think about so many teams and how there’s probably a dominant communication style that’s to maybe verbally express or to think out loud, and how that might be getting in the way, Justin as you say, of some of the quieter voices and the thoughts that haven’t been said out loud yet.
LM – She tells that, a story that Faith has shared with her co-leading with Urie and Urie giving her this elbow jabs, no wait, be patient, because our reflex, at least in the US, is to be like oh they didn’t understand the question, I can do it in a different way. I see coaches doing this a lot too, piling on questions instead of giving the clients some space to actually receive it. And receiving a question, a real inquiry, and taking it through the channel of the body to really sense, it takes time. That’s not instant lightning fast. It takes time to really sink into, to what a really well asked question, a powerful question, is going to take some time to process, to metabolize. So the more we can give a little space to the answer to be a real one and not a reflexive one. Like how are you? I could say fine instantly but if I really want an answer to that deeper, I need to give some actual space and that’s what Faith was finding when she was encountering her colleagues in Japan and Urie was doing her elbow jab training, wait, wait, it’s ok. Yeah, we love that story. That’s ma on the job! Ma in life. Bringing more ma to life.
JZ – Yeah. We look in, in some of the chapters on the spirit of silence, you know we’ve chapters on the science of silence, and spirit of silence, why the great wisdom traditions of the world, spiritual, religious, philosophical traditions, all agree on this notion that silence is essential for clarifying the consciousness, that science is a pathway to truth. We look at the meaning of ma and we even look at the kanji characters in the Japanese language, and literally it means sunlight pouring through the slats in basically a remote temple gate. It’s like this image of someone pouring through, that’s this meaning of ma. So when Faith asks her students, asks people in a meeting, how are you this morning, and they pause for a long time and Faith gets really uncomfortable, and you know, Urie is jabbing here and telling her not to fill the space immediately, in time Faith actually came to appreciate that what seemed just like this really strange quirk was really the expression of something profound, this willingness to be comfortable in the silence with another person, to be present, to really contemplate how are you this morning? You know, and have that presence with other people, this is like an antidote to the tyranny of the fastest and loudest, so she could get over her conditioning to just fill the space with sound and stimulus constantly. She realized she could have this golden silence brought forth, this golden sunlight in the gates.
LM – As you know, Faith is one of those people who’s so committed to learning everywhere she goes, but Urie really emphasizes that she was one who was really open to that feedback, she was bringing her New England self, kind of fast, fast, fast to these encounters and then meeting a culture that has that space for real contemplation. There’s one more fun fact about this word ma that we keep using, M-A, it’s transliterated as manuke, to be without ma, and that is a fool, a simpleton, in Japanese. Manuke is someone without ma.
KC – Interesting. I guess I’m wondering then, with regards to societies that don’t value silence so much, in some ways its seen maybe as the opposite of what success holds in its sort of wider, more stereotypical definitions, I’m wondering how we can bring sort of success and silence into alignment?
JZ – Mmm. It’s a really important question Katie and this really also gets, I think, to the social heart of the book. Because this is really a book about how we make some changes in our communities, in our whole society, and you know, we live in a society where success is often equated with sound and stimulus. As a society we tend to measure success in terms of how much we produce. And that’s often measured through economic indicators like gross domestic product. And we talk in the book about how the way we measure gross domestic product, the way we measure the economy, which is often a kind of symbol for how a government is doing, how a president or prime minister is faring, is the economy growing, what’s the worth rate? You know, we measure GDP, for example, by chopping down a forest to collect the wood to sell it at a hardware store because that is a measurable exchange that happens in the economy that’s showing that economic progress is happening. And we don’t measure the value of the pristine forest that’s kept intact, and we know in respect to climate change and the environmental and many other challenges we’re facing now, that’s a deeply problematic dynamic. But what we talk about in this book is that the same dynamic applies with respect to our attention. If we take our attention and we chop it up, basically, like that chopped wood, and we put it on Facebook or Instagram and turn it into eyeballs on advertisements rather than pristine attention, rather than time spent in nature or time spent playing with your children or time spent listening to birds, that’s the economic value. Just like the intact forest is economically at zero under our systems of measurement and gross domestic product, the value of pristine human attention is placed at zero. So a big part of this book is looking at this question what if this pristine attention, what if the spaces of silence were seen as not something that could be helpful for health and wellness, but actually seen as a public good which is to say that people throughout the culture recognize that pristine human attention, space and silence, is something truly valuable, but also that even governments and players in the economic system, investors, big corporations, see this as something valuable that is their purpose to help deliver. How would that change the dynamics of the attention economy? How would that change our workplaces?
LM – And really this issue with the GDP and what it measures and what it doesn’t measure is put so perfectly in this speech given by Robert F Kennedy in 1968, just a few months before his assassination, if you don’t mind I’ll just read some of that, it’s just perfectly put. “It counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clean out highways of carnage, it counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the Red Wood and the loss of our natural wonder and chaotic sprawl. It counts Napalm, it counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
JZ – In the later chapters of the book we turn from the work of finding silence as individuals and families and workplaces and even communities, we then turn toward what we call a society that honors silence. In this section of the book we actually look at what it could look like, what it might mean to reform our systems of economic measurement to value pristine attention, to value silence. And this is based on some work I’ve been doing for more than 10 years now, looking at how to reform GDP to look more deeply at human wellbeing, I’ve worked on legislation in Congress around how to do this and done academic research on it. We apply that kind of lens here, and you know, as we think about, you know, folks that might not be necessarily working in the realms of public policy and law, these same ideas really apply because this same principle of GDP growth as progress applies to us as individuals too, it’s the same idea as productivity as progress in our lives. You know, it’s like as the societal level that looks like, you know, GDP growth is the answer, but at the individual personal level it’s kind of the ethos that says oh you can rest when you’re dead, it’s like that same productivity that can be quantified and measured in numerical terms is the be all and end all. And what we want to do in this book is talk about this space of what we talk about from a Swiss contemplative from about 100 years ago, Max Picard, he writes about silence as wholly uselessness, as this space, as this presence that doesn’t have any good use outside of itself and is nonetheless what he says holy, it’s something that’s sacred in our lives, it’s something that doesn’t have an agenda but that has inherent meaning.
KC – Would you say then that silence is a fundamental human need and a human right?
LM – I would say silence is our birthright, yeah, absolutely. It feels integral to being human. And just in case it’s sounding like hard to reach or impossible in any way, our sense is that silence is something we know. Silence is something we’re here to remember, for some part of us maybe it’s our own childhoods, maybe it’s just more like a basic human collective memory. Silence is important to us. It’s necessary. It’s critical. Maybe like how whales just know to migrate or birds just know to migrate. Something very core, human, to this need for silence. Including shared silence.
KC – Feels sort of separate from output and input, it’s the space in between that probably allows both to happen in a much more skillful and safe and holistic way, for all of us to thrive. One final thought. I’m wondering, would you say leaning into this silence then, in a way it’s systemic because it’s connecting us to so many different parts of ourselves and the wider world?
JZ – When we first set out to write this book, Katie, we were a little bit nervous to present it to the big publishers because it touches on so many different themes, you know it goes deep into neuroscience and psychology but it also goes really deep into economics and politics and organizational design, and then it goes super deep into questions of spirituality and psychedelics and deepest human experiences. And we were really pleasantly surprised by the response, that our publisher and some of the other publishers that ended up making offers on the book were really saying yeah, they were getting the idea that this was something systemic as you put it. You know, it’s something that’s systemic to us as human systems, as systems of biology, psychology and systems of meaning and values and systems of communities and workplaces, organizations, whole societies. Systemic is a really good way to put it and we feel that there’s a systemic lack of silence in our world right now. So it kind of comes back to why we wrote this book in the first place, I think we shared with you that we were contemplating this question of what are we going to do about this crazy world? How can we possibly bring a bit more sanity? And we’re both people who do work on systems in different ways, you know, national and regional, state level legislation and policy change and change for corporate culture and company standards and all these different dimensions to it. But I guess we examined that question Katie, we kept being like gosh, for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction, for every intervention we try to launch to make things better from our point of view, what can we really do right now to try to have a positive impact? And the answer that just kept coming to both of us is find more silence. People navigate the noise but more than anything make this shift a little bit more possible by helping people recognize the importance of appreciating the silence.
LM – The meditation we’ve been on for these 5-years and that we encourage your listeners to do as well is to notice noise and to really notice that with their full being, the real true impact of what they’re trying to do and the real true impact and the relationships they’re having. The real true impact, just their alignment with self, and to tune into silence and to really feel what happens. What do they notice? What are they present to? What’s possible when we all tune in?
KC – What do you think is possible if all of us tuned in a tiny bit more to silence?
LM – This makes me feel almost weepy. I think the way we, we’ll start with maybe how we are to ourselves, how hard we drive ourselves, how we sometimes get in the habit of numbing or overriding what’s needed in the body or what our heart truly desires and living that way for however long we live that way, so I see a lot of potential for how we can be more true in ourselves, to ourselves, kind to ourselves, compassionate. And I open up to how that would look in relationship, where we’re more tuned into those things and then turning out to relationship, how we could be more present for one another, our attention, as we said, which is so, so like a prayer. And then how we would be with nature, how we would treat her, how we would respect her, our intrinsic value outside of ours, our need for her help, our need for those resources.
JZ – And this question, Katie, and these beautiful reflections Leigh are reminding me of the question we pose in the opening words of the book and what’s the deepest silence you’ve ever known? And this is one of those questions that we offer some ideas and some, we envision some ways in the book, but we really want to turn this question to you, to the reader, to the listener and to feel into what’s the deepest silence you’ve ever known? You know there’s no need to overthink it, just the first thing that comes to you. And to really ground and be present with the question. What’s the deepest silence you’ve ever known? And as you feel it, as you contemplate how your nervous system feels, how spacious your mind feels, how spacious things might feel in your body when you really tune into this silence. You know, from there turning to all these areas of life that Leigh’s pointing to, our relationships with one another, our relationship to nature, how we exchange ideas, how we think about meaning and purpose in our lives. To do all of this, to contemplate all these questions from this place of the deepest silence, this is really the invitation that we hope to offer with this book.
LM – Katie if I can I’d love to know, you’re such a thoughtful person and this is all about sensing where we are the point we hold on the ball – what do you think is possible?
KC – This whole conversation has felt like a meditation and a very present conversation with you both, and it feels like something that’s very possible. I said this to you offline but after reading this book I didn’t come away with a sense of oh I’ve got something else to do or something else to add or someone else to be, it felt like it was very much in my grasp and it’s everyone’s grasp, it’s a superpower that we all have and we all hold, and I think that is so exciting, that we all have that, it’s not something we have to add or to build, or change. It’s something we all hold and it’s a right that we all have and what might be possible from there. Thank you both, this has been a gorgeous journey talking with you both about this amazing work.
LM – Thank you Katie for this opportunity. Such a joy to talk with you.
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KC – I want to say a big thanks to Leigh and Justin for these three hugely helpful, insightful episodes and wish them all the best with their book launch of Golden The Power of Silence in a World of Noisecoming out May of this year. Here are my key takeaways from part three of the conversation. In order to create quiet together work out what your golden rules are, champion other people’s quiet and do your own noise audit first. Where can you create more space for silence for yourself and those around you? Launch an experiment, harness the lessons learnt and embrace a freedom to fail so there’s permission to continue to prototype different quiet together strategies. The idea of quiet together can encourage quieter voices to share their ideas during brainstorming sessions. For example, can you encourage people to sleep on the question and revisit it the next day? Or consider non-verbal report outs like creating post it note galleries. Make space in the deliberation so that quieter voices and more marginalized voices can come forth and maybe come to the center. In an everyday, mundane world, this is how we understand silence as part of the work of justice. We live in a society where success is often equated with sound and stimulus and we tend to measure success in terms of how much we produce which is measured through economic indicators like growth domestic product or GDP. And the value of pristine human attention is valued at 0 according to GDP. What if this attention and these spaces of silence were seen as a public good, as something recognized as truly valuable by governors and investors? How would that change our attention economy, our workplaces and our relationships? For over 18 years, CRR Global has accompanied leaders, teams, and practitioners on their journey to build stronger relationships by focusing on the relationship itself, not only the individuals occupying it. This leads to a community of changemakers around the world. Supported by a global network of Faculty and Partners, we connect, inspire, and equip change agents to shift systems, one relationship at a time. We believe Relationship Matters from humanity to nature to the larger whole.
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