Right Speech

I’m big on what comes out of the mouth. Over the years, I’ve written about and reposted on Right Speech, one of the Buddha’s 8-Fold Path.  I’ve also studied Marshall Rosenberg’s non-violent communication teachings. I think it’s important. So, it was an easy choice for a topic when my new dharma group in Bend asked if I’d lead a discussion. When I arrived in Bend and after checking out the yoga classes, I looked for a meditation group.  ZenBend meets weekly for a dharma talk and discussion followed by meditation. It’s lay-led and they asked if I’d host.  Me?  Well, why not I told myself. My time in Bend seems to be a journey of new adventures, so I replied with a weak  “well, sure” followed by self-effacing caveats about not being worthy. I’m on.  

Because I did some more research, I decided to share it with you.  

The Buddha distinguished 4 types of right speech:

  1. Truthfulness or abstain from false speech.  Do not lie. Do not deceive others.  Lying and deception are slippery slopes.  One lie begets another and another to cover up the first lie. Presenting yourself as other than you are (deception) requires constant grooming to keep the lie alive rather than lose face.  
  2. Harmonious, friendly speech or abstain from slanderous speech.  Do not pass falsities or rumors with the intention of tearing down or dividing others. This often comes in the form of gossip. Unfortunately, our society revels in headlines and speech that is for the purpose of seeking attention, advancing one’s beliefs and putting down others.
  3. Loving, kind words or abstaining from harsh speech.  This includes angry speech intended to cause the other pain, abusive speech, like scolding with bitter words, insulting or hurting words, and sarcasm that causes pain.
  4. Speak what is wise at the right time or abstain from idle chatter.  Idle chatter is kind of garbage talk, that lacks purpose or reason and communicates nothing of value.     

What and how we speak is a choice and it does not start at the lips or larynx.  It starts in the mind. Your thoughts become your words.  So, if you want to become more conscious with your speech you need to start with the ‘ol coconut. How, you ask?  Becoming aware (the “mindful” word if you’d prefer) of the when and why of your words.  Here are a few suggestions:

  1.  Put a brief “pause” between what the mind is thinking and what your mouth is saying.  Is what you’re about to say wise?  Is it the right time and to the right people?  Is it helpful? Does it lead to harmony with your listener and others?  
  2. Watch what you consume. Just like eating, garbage in = garbage out. If you spend your time listening/reading political vitriol, divisive media, and violent tv and movies, you will start to become sour, jaded and unpleasant. What comes in will eventually make it’s way out.
  3. Speak in a manner that is helpful and eases suffering.  If you see someone in distress or that needs some lovin’ you can use your words to show concern, offer comfort and extend kindness.

I know sometimes words unintentionally spill out, like the “foot in mouth” variety. This is often hilarious or embarrassing, depending on your audience. Later, you find yourself saying “I can’t believe I said that”. Inebriation can be the culprit, you know like drunk dialing or crying in your soup about your ex- with a friend on a Saturday night. It’s helpful to remember we’re human.  

Oh, and while you’re at it, what about how you talk to yourself?  Is your self-talk kind, helpful, encouraging, and true?  We often berate ourselves with incessant chatter that is untrue, unkind and down right unnecessary.  Apply the principles of “right speech” to yourself.

So, I hope this has encouraged you to be a bit more aware of what you say and how you say it.  It’s important, especially now.  

Until we meet again, be well and I’m always look forward to hear from you.