The second new mindfulness practice I added into my routine this past year was centered around words. I’ll explain.
Every year for the past 10 years or so, as I mentioned recently in my post entitled Into the Woods, my husband Mike and I – and sometimes friends – have been going hot springing on Christmas Day. While soaking on Christmas Day in 2017, accompanied by our friends Marko and Jeff, Mike came up with a group question for us all to answer: What’s your favorite word? After quickly deciding that choosing our favorite word was too big a task, we revamped the question a bit: What’s ONE of your favorite words?
Let’s see if I can remember them. Mine was falderal, which means nonsense, and is apparently so seldom used that WordPress has seen fit to underline it in red as I’m typing, indicating that I’ve made a tragic spelling error (though of course that won’t translate on your end, dear reader). Marko’s was detritus, which is the term for small particles of rock or other earthly debris. I’m afraid I don’t recall Mike and Jeff’s.
After that, Marko and I continued this word sharing thread, as both he and I are writers and enjoy words. We started emailing each other a word of the day, though it was more like once or twice a week to start and then less frequently as time went on. Only mid-way through the year did I start keeping track of the words we would send to each other back and forth. Here are a few of my favorite ones:
It’s been quite the week.
A week I could (and did) summarize by the title of this post: Words matter.
At the start of the week on Monday, we had an especially lovely evening at our local sangha, Be Here Now. It was one of those nights where the sharing was really genuine and heartfelt, we had a large group (over 30 people), and we had someone join us who’d just moved to town and was so grateful for having found our group and to feel so welcomed and right at home with us.
On Tuesday, I attended a forum on hate crimes on the UM campus (see previous post).
On Thursday, I attended a public talk on campus given by Christian Picciolini, founder of the Free Radicals Project and author of White American Youth: My Descent Into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement – and How I Got Out.
Unlike the Hate Crimes Forum I attended on Tuesday night, the seats were well-packed. While there were a mixture of ages in the audience, UM students occupied the largest demographic and I took great pleasure in being surrounded by 7 others in my close proximity who donned notebooks on their laps in lieu of cell phones.
And last night, I helped organize an event called Word of Mouth at our local Roxy theater here in Missoula. An evening which celebrated the art of creative self-expression through wordsmithing. We had 3 spoken word poets (myself included), 3 storytellers, and 3 standup comics take the stage, each with 10-minutes, for a 2-hour show that was simply fantastic. The show started at 7:00 and by 6:30 all 119 seats were sold out. Dozens of folks were turned away at the door – which speaks to me of the great need for continuing to offer these types of events.
Collage pic of all the WOM performers in the show last night
Portrait of a Writer, A Discourse in Six Parts
One. Eyes open amid some dark and early hour, hanging in the fragile space between stars and first light. As though they’d been collecting for days, waiting to be tended to, words have gathered and piled up whilst in slumber – begging to be written – crowding one another to express themselves first through the pen.
Two. Tea awaits in the folds of white coated cupboards perched in survey over the sprawl of earthen slate tiles, cool to the soft padding of touch on bare feet.
Three. Unobtrusive bits of light are invited. A candle is lit, rocking its translucent flame from side to wavering side with the rhythm and sway of the ocean’s tides and wind licking through the towering swells of rock and roots and bones.
Four. In balanced harmony, fresh sheets of paper tremble in anticipation of fulfilling their intended destiny beside the only one worthy of being betrothed to inhabit its purity of empty space: the Pilot P-500 in blue ink, extra fine.
Five. Held captive by the spectacle of it all, a reflection of grace and ease mirrors back a fragrant reminder of how very precious this embodiment of the coming together of elements is. Careful not to disturb the din of quietude, the conditions are rich and delicious for savoring.
Six. Sometimes words string together like decorative garland, adorning the air that gave rise to their maturation. Sometimes words tumble and spill out like crude oil, unexpected and defiling. And sometimes words need to sit and settle before the time is ripe for them to reveal their buried truth.
On Saturday, while standing in line at the Good Food Store (our local organic food market), I overheard the dude in front of me telling the cashier that he was going to see the new Star Wars movie. In the interest of working on my small talk/social engagement skills, I chimed in: “Oh, there’s a new Star Wars movie out, eh?” To which he replied – friendly enough, but still incredulously – “Where have you been? Under a rock?!”
How do I respond? I pondered internally. Hmm.
After a brief pause – quickly deciding that it was not at all the direction I wanted to tread in to toss back some kind of sarcastic barb about how when I read the world news, other more pressing matters are thankfully covered than what’s hot at the box office – I said: “I like rocks! It’s kind of nice under there.”
This is such a frequent occurrence! We use unskillful words and judgemental tones of voice based on our ongoing assumptions that the reality of those around us is the same as our own. It never ceases to amaze me how potent our choice of words really is and how big of a difference it makes to develop a kind disposition when speaking.
May we all practice – myself super included! – to watch what we say and how we say it. Too often, we just speak and have little to no idea of what it is we’re saying and why it is we’re talking. It’s really important to know that we spread the seeds of either benefit or harm in every word we offer – and don’t offer.
Words matter. Truly.
Let us be good to one another and use words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope and help foster the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood in our wake.