Tuesday, February 15, 2011

'Think Twice Before You Speak'

Gil's talk tonight was about right speech. I agree with him that "the most difficult place to be mindful is in social settings." Time and time again, I find myself slipping with the tongue and wishing I had kept silent instead.  And the more I notice, the worse it seems to get. Do you know that one? :)

Here is the essence of Gil's teachings as I heard them:

When aggressed verbally by someone, do not fall into either usual extremes of turning the other cheek, or an eye for an eye. Instead, look the person in the eye and engage the person, taking a stance without either aversion or clinging. Taking the time and interest to find out 'Who are you?' Every human being has depth.

Speaking is not an innocent act. It is true that 'Words can kill. Words can give life.' One is wise to follow the Tibetan Buddhist teaching: 'In meditation, watch your mind. In public, watch your mouth.' Most powerful is to understand why you are going to say what you are going to say. For instance, are you trying to look good, or get what you want, or want to avoid something, or are afraid of exposing yourself, or of getting rejected? One consequence of Buddhist practice is that one can become more eccentric. 

One value of Buddhism, relative to speech is concord, as in warmth and kindness. The way to cultivate concord is, don't talk so much. When asked a question bring it back to the other person and ask her a question.

Other value is, is your speech useful? Often what we say either undermines, slanders, or criticizes.

Next value is, is it timely? One of most difficult place to be mindful is in social settings. It is also one of the most useful place to cultivate mindfulness through speech. One way to do so is by connecting to the body, and paying attention to the posture, physical stance one takes. Keeping track of emotions, thoughts. Noticing when when is rehearsing an answer. Better is to pause before speaking and preparing what your are going to say. Notice which parts of the body are activated? What is the energy level? When does it rise and drop? Become aware of the act of speaking itself. Always evaluate what you are going to say, or what you said. 

In summary the four aspects of right speech are:
is it true?
is it kind?
is it useful?
is it timely?
does it create concord?

Gil's homework:
Each day this week, practice one of five values of right speech. Take a break on the sixth day, and on the seventh, integrate all five. 

For me, most useful is to treat speaking as practice, and to give myself a pause before responding to someone or initiating a talk. The old adage of 'Think twice before speaking once' sums it all. 

For the complete talk, go to AudioDharma. It should be up in the next few days.

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