“Civility does not…mean the mere outward gentleness of speech cultivated for the occasion, but an inborn gentleness and desire to do the opponent good”. ~Mahatma Gandhi
We know that words can carry a powerful punch and whether we like it or not, we are often affected by the words of others and others are affected by our words. In essence, our words carry immense power sometimes to heal and often times to harm. Now comes a very powerful opportunity to practice using our words in daily communications to approach the epidemic proportions of incivility and inhumanity we face as a nation.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali teaches that the practice of (satya) or truthfulness, not just in our words but also our actions and our thoughts is the foundation for peace of mind and healthy relationships. Furthermore, Satya needs to follow (ahimsa) non-harming. Thus, we must consider ahimsa as we practice satya. So, as we move into conversations and our hearts become heavy with dismay, we must still practice the guidelines presented by Patanjali if we are to stay in the practice of Yoga.
In the Buddhist tradition, this practice of speaking with both honesty and kindness is called “Right Speech,” and is one of the pillars of the Buddha’s Eight-fold Noble Path.
Actively in our lives, we can create a positive environment by practicing right speech. When we are talking to others we can pause a moment before we “speak out loud” and be certain that what we are communicating is an act of right speech, not born out of negativity, fear, jealousy, hatred, anger, sadness etc. We can ask ourselves, “are my words carrying an honest intention to do the opponent good” as quoted by Ghandi?
We can change our experience of the world by becoming conscious and in control of the words we speak and the thoughts we think. If our thoughts, words and actions are rooted in satya and ahimsa we can become aware of our “inner critic” and notice what we are saying and the tone with which we are speaking. This seemingly small act can have powerful, transformative results not only for ourselves but also for those around us.
We can also begin to pay attention to how we feel after we speak or have judgmental thoughts of others. This allows us the opportunity to become aware of how our words not only affect others, but also how our words affect our own emotional well being. We can strive to live in this world and take action to practice civility so that we may be positive roll models for others.
Before we speak we can ask these questions:
Is it true, is it kind, is it necessary, does it improve the silence?
In joy and love,