For the last 5 weeks I’ve been teaching a class I call MIndfulness Matters through our adult learning center here in town. I’ve been teaching these class series for the last 4 years or so. I focus on a different element of mindfulness each week and this week’s topic is mindful speech and deep listening. In order to help prepare I thought I would write out some of my thoughts and subject matter here.
The greatest gift we can offer someone is our true and full presence and two of the most important tools that we can cultivate in order to do this are mindful speech and deep listening. Mindful speech is the use of words that help inspire self-confidence, joy, inclusiveness, and connection. Deep listening is the ability to listen in such a way where we are free of judgement and a need to react.
If we don’t know how to practice mindful speech and deep listening towards ourselves we will only be so effective when we direct these skill sets towards others. Many of us have a very negative internal dialogue that is directed at ourselves. This internal voice is often operating on an unconscious level and can be very active throughout the day. A few common examples of negative self-talk include statements like, “I can’t believe I just did that, I’m so stupid!” or “I look awful today, I’m so fat.” or “Gosh, what is wrong with me today, I can’t do anything right.”
When we use harsh language with ourselves we are practicing anger, ill-will, and, in a sense, violence. Those seeds are getting watered within us. When we judge ourselves and direct negativity at ourselves this will also get reflected in how we react to others, whether internally or externally. This negative talk also creates division and separateness. When we are verbally aggressive our perspective has become very small and unbalanced. When we put down and criticize ourselves we are essentially saying, “I am not good enough,” and when we do the same to others we are saying, “They are not good enough.”
The cultivation of mindful speech involves getting in touch with our human nature. When we start to understand that perfection is an unrealistic measuring system we can then start to let go of the constant comparisons we hold ourselves and others up to. If we understood these three things and practiced them whole heartedly it would transform how we relate to ourselves and the world: 1. Everything and everyone is impermanent. 2. We are all imperfect. 3. We are all the same AND we are all different.
When we speak with words of support and encouragement we help to water the seeds of love, joy, and hope. And just as important as what we say is how we say it. We want to start paying attention to our tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions which also relay a lot of information when communicating. The words and energy we have can either help to inflame or calm down depending on what we say and how we say it. Mindful speech is about starting to understand that our words and actions create an impact and make a difference.
Next Up: Part 2, Deep Listening