Mindful Speech in Challenging Moments

Marie will facilitate. She shares

This week, we will build on last week’s discussion of deep listening and focus on mindful speech.   Specifically, we’ll explore those instances when it is difficult for us to speak mindfully and share practices that can help.  

Recently, I’ve had a life circumstance that has challenged my ability to speak mindfully.   The situation involved an aging family member who lives alone.   She is, in my view, physically at risk of falling and is, also in my view, unwilling to do what was needed to live alone safely.  While I’ve added the “my views” to this text, they are seldom in my thoughts.   Instead, my head has been brimming with “the facts” and “the solutions”.    And, with every new accident (there have several), I became more convinced of my views and tried, in various ways, to convince her and/or other family members of what needs to be done.  Can you see where this is going?

In “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching”, Thay writes that “Right speech is based on Right Thinking.  Speech is the way for our thinking to express itself aloud.  Our thoughts are no longer our private possessions.  We give earphones to others and allow them to hear the audiotape that is playing in our mind…    Deep listening is at the foundation of Right Speech.  If we cannot listen mindfully, we cannot practice Right Speech.  No matter what we say, it will not be mindful, because we’ll be speaking only our own ideas and not in response to the other person.  In the Lotus Sutra, we are advised to look and listen with the eyes of compassion.  Compassionate listening brings about healing...

You have to practice breathing mindfully in and out so that compassion always stays with you.  “I am listening to her not only because I want to know what is inside her or to give her advice.  I am listening to her just because I want to relieve her suffering.”  That is called compassionate listening...

Sometimes we speak clumsily and create internal knots in others.  Then we say “I was just telling the truth.”  It may be the truth, but if our way of speaking causes unnecessary suffering, it is not Right Speech.  The truth must be presented in ways that others can accept.  Words that damage or destroy are not Right Speech.  Before you speak, understand the person you are speaking to.  Consider each word carefully before you say anything, so that your speech is “Right” in both form and content.   You have the right to tell another everything in your heart with the condition that you use only loving speech.”

Have you any situations in your life where it is difficult to speak mindfully?   What makes it hard to listen deeply and to speak lovingly?   Have you had experiences where you’ve been able to change the trajectory?  What happened and how did you do it?   

Please bring your experiences and insights on Monday night, and we will share what we are learning.