One side of my family is of Finnish origin (a heritage I share with Johanna of Pointe Till You Drop). My grandparents emigrated to North America (Canada and the U.S.), and I grew up immersed with many transplanted aspects of Finnish culture. One is an appreciation for a good Finnish sauna, the kind with a wood-burning stove that produces sizzling steam when you throw water on the lake stones piled on top (a dry and stuffy hot room at the gym is NOT a real sauna!). Another is a love of good strong coffee (the Finns drink more coffee per capita than any other nation). And one of my very favourites that I have come to cherish more and more as a busy adult is the concept of comfortable silence. For Finns, "silence is cozy, restful---even fun*", and periods of silence are not awkward pauses to be filled with idle chatter and small talk. In North America, it seems that silence is something suspicious to be banished or avoided, and I will never get used to the tendency to fill every gap with some noise.
Yes, there IS such a thing as awkward silence, such as the kind that occurs at business dinners with strangers, contentious family events, or other situations with a tense vibe where everyone is painfully attempting to keep the mood light or desperately reaching to find common things to keep the conversation going, but "comfortable silence" is something that you share with close friends and loved ones, where you can be in the same room, sitting on the same couch, engaged in separate activities but feel no need to speak or fill the silence because you just appreciate the cozy company and the peace. I experience this with my immediate family members, a few close friends, and my partner…and also, in ballet class!
I love the fact that ballet is mercifully nonverbal. After a day filled with words, including presentations, work meetings, status reports, emails, phone calls, manuscripts, memos, and so on, I love the absence of words in the studio where the teacher's instructions, the pianist's music, and the quiet brush and soft landings of ballet slippers are the only sounds. Sometimes I feel like walking into the studio is like entering a church or a monastery, where actions truly speak and words are insufficient. It's a contemplative time where my thoughts, energies, and emotions can turn inward, and I can enjoy the presence of my classmates doing the same in comfortable silence. :)
I thought about this today while I basked in the peaceful work and comfortable silence in the ballet studio. I hope you feel it too and incorporate a little comfortable silence in your own lives :)
*Quoted from a book on how to do business in Finland, called "Finland, Cultural Lone Wolf", by Richard D. Lewis.