Sometimes Silence is Louder

Violent protests at UC BerkeleyMy mom died in January 2007 and my whole family freaked out. When I got to my dad’s place I realized I had only one job and that job was to be the guy who wasn’t freaking out.

When everyone is going crazy and someone steps into the room and simply refuses to go crazy it really helps. But it’s not easy to be that guy.

I was as grief stricken as anyone else that day. I wanted to cry too. I wanted to freak out as much as anybody else. But I didn’t have that option.

And neither do you in our current political situation, if you’re a Buddhist.

You are not allowed to freak out.

A little bit of composure in the face of overwhelming craziness is the most valuable thing we have to offer.

Sit down and shut up.

Maybe not forever.

Maybe not always.

But twice a day, every day, set aside a time to sit down and shut up.

Don’t say anything. Don’t read anything. Don’t Tweet anything. Don’t update your status. Don’t look at anyone else’s updates. Don’t check your feed. Be unfed.

Stay still. Even if you’re raging on the inside, stay still.

Shut up. Even if you long to shout your piece, shut up.

Sometimes you’ll have to speak out. But I feel like it’s better to use that sparingly. Then when you do speak out it has more meaning.

Which dog are you gonna take more seriously, the one who yaps at every little noise or the one who stays quiet most of the time but then, late one night, starts barking?

If you’re constantly making noise folks tune you out. Then when you really do have something to contribute you’ve already lost your audience.

You can speak out. Just don’t freak out.

Whenever there’s a crisis, the most valuable people are the ones who can respond without freaking out. They’re the only ones who can really help. That’s your job. Take it seriously. It’s a serious job and not many people can do it.

There’s not a lot of glory in this job. Sure, every once in a while someone plays the role of the calm person, saves a few lives, and gets in the newspapers for it. But most of the time it isn’t like that. Most of the time you never even get noticed at all.

It’s like being a bass player. After I joined Zero Defex, I remember hearing people compliment the other members of the band on how much better they sounded. Their previous bass players had been much more wild and charismatic, more photogenic, way more “punk.” All I did was stand at the back and concentrate on playing my part while the chaos swirled around me. I resented the fact that my contribution went mostly unnoticed. But I wanted the band to sound good more than I wanted to be the star.

Your silence will be heard.

Maybe nobody will know that they heard it. But they will have.

I’m really disheartened by what I’m seeing happen in America nowadays. The people who I always thought I agreed with — the ones who are against sexism, against racism, against violence, against censorship — somehow they’re becoming every damned thing they ever criticized. Not all of them, sure. But enough that it’s making everyone who opposes that kind of shit look terrible and legitimizes the wrong side.

Maybe it’s because everybody feels like they have to speak out, like they have to make their voices heard. And the only way to be heard over the cacophonous din is to be even louder, even more abrasive, even more in-your-face.

I’m starting to think that perhaps there’s enough of that already. I’m starting to think that becoming quieter is the only way left to make a statement that matters.


Tonight (Friday Feb. 3, 2017), join us at 8pm at Angel City Zen Center for our first monthly Buddhist movie night!  We will watch an 80s Bill Murray get woke in The Razor’s Edge, based on the W. Somerset Maugham novel.  The movie is described as: 

He had everything and wanted nothing. He learned that he had nothing and wanted everything. He saved the world and then it shattered. The path to enlightenment is as sharp and narrow as a razor’s edge.

Of course, there will be snacks!  But feel free to bring your own to share.


Tomorrow (Saturday Feb. 4, 2017) join us in sitting down and shutting up for a half day retreat at Angel City Zen Center. We start at 10am and end around 3;30pm.


THERE IS NO GOD AND HE IS ALWAYS WITH YOU is now available as an audiobook from as are Hardcore Zen and Sit Down and Shut Up!

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Check out my podcast with Pirooz Kalayeh, ONCE AGAIN ZEN!

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I’ve got a new book out now! Stay up to date on my live appearances and more by signing up for our mailing list on the contact page


Every Monday at 7:30pm there’s zazen at Angel City Zen Center (NEW TIME, NEW PLACE!) 1407 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!

Every Saturday at 10:00 am there’s zazen at the Angel City Zen Center (NEW PLACE!) 1407 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!

These on-going events happen every week even if I am away from Los Angeles. Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

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Shut up and send me some money. Your donations are my major means of support. Thank you!