Saturday, May 28, 2011

Write Speech

Anyone who is familiar with basic Buddhist concepts such as the Noble Eightfold Path (see below) knows that Right Speech is the first component of Moral Discipline. It is defined as follows:

"Right speech, explained in negative terms, means avoiding four types of harmful speech: lies (words spoken with the intent of misrepresenting the truth); divisive speech (spoken with the intent of creating rifts between people); harsh speech (spoken with the intent of hurting another person's feelings); and idle chatter (spoken with no purposeful intent at all)." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, 1999

And for anyone who knows me personally, they know that, except for the lying and slander, I would be the first to admit that I have failed miserably in Right Speech. On any given day, my words are often idle, irreverent, and yes, graphic. Some people might call it 'colorful'. I wouldn't completely say that I have a 'potty mouth', but the F-bomb is certainly a well-worn word in my vocabulary. 

I do want to change, I really do, but I have found that the shocked laughter that outrageous quips can generate is addictive! Saying shocking things is fun, with the added benefit that you also sound fun, maybe even cool and confident. 

However, the conflict I sometimes feel indicates that there might be something wrong with my verbal behavior. I am under the impression that I have enough maturity and experience to know that one doesn't need to cuss to be funny or creative. Plus, I knew things were getting bad when the people I work with appropriated a mason jar to 'pay' for 'inappropriate comments' (not just for me, but for all of us)! Loose change for loose mouths, I guess.

But since I do genuinely want to change, I have a strategy. Several times I have not only focused on being mindful of my speech, but pretended that I had to write down everything I said. The result? Well, I certainly spoke a lot less!! But more importantly, I only spoke when it was useful, helpful, and necessary.

Yeah, it seems too rigid, especially for a big talker like me. But I think it will be good practice for generating mindful speech, until I become more aware. As a wise man once said, if you can't control your mouth, how can you control your mind?

So for now, it's 'Write Speech' for Right Speech, at least while I'm at work.

What do you think? Would this work for you? Comments are welcome.

May all beings be happy!

Noble Eightfold Path
1. Right view
2. Right intention
Moral Discipline
3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right livelihood
6. Right effort
7. Right mindfulness
8. Right concentration

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The merit of doing 'nothing'

I recently purchased author and life coach Martha Beck's 2003 book, The Joy Diet. I have not yet finished it, but in my opinion the value of this book is apparent from the first page. Her overall analysis and advice begins by explaining that many of her clients have that dreaded but still uncomfortably common feeling, that something is missing from their lives.

What intrigued me is the very first challenge she puts forth. Do nothing- just for 15 minutes each day. Her account of people's reaction to this suggestion is descriptive, as she quips many "balk like irritated camels".

But, imaginative comparisons aside, the analysis and argument she discusses is convincing. 'Nothing' in this context is not bad, lazy, or negative, as our psyche obsessed with 'progress' and 'productivity' might subconsciously hiss.

Referring to the struggle people face in overcoming trauma and finding meaning in their lives, Beck writes:

"The best way to break through any barrier is to access a point of perfect stillness at the center of your being, a self deeper than your senses or your mind."  

That stillness, that place of peace, cannot be accessed as we flutter about, chasing after everything in our tumultuous lives and minds. Ambition is fine, and indeed admirable, but we have to make the time to just be still, so we can come back to ourselves and eventually grasp the 'whys' and the 'hows' of who we really are.

As I read the chapter it became clear that the essence of what Beck suggests is meditation. When stripped of the stereotypical accessories and preconceived notions, meditation is really about 'doing nothing'. Or perhaps more precisely, as a living, breathing, sentient being, one is non-doing. And that non-doing is the mindfulness bell that brings one back to the breath, core purpose, and eventually, one's core being.  

In the past, I have admittedly viewed meditation as just another thing I feel obligated to do, whether consciously or not. But with the wisdom of many funneled through the skilled writings of Martha Beck and others like her, I have come to realize that meditation is one less thing to 'do', and, more importantly something to drop all 'doing', and just experience. After all, everything we would ever need to know, want, and love is already present at our core being. To access that, we are blessed by the fact that all we have to do is sit down and shut up- if only for a few minutes each day.

What does non-doing or 'being still' mean to you? What experiences have you had just 'being still'? How could it benefit you and other beings? 

May all beings be happy!