Sorry, I can’t talk…I’m practicing Right Speech.

I’m involved in an ongoing mediation class/discussion group at New York Insight called Conscious Living Conscious Working. I love it. We meet every two weeks to discuss how our practice is going and for the teachers to introduce the next topic in the progression of Buddhist Philosophy for daily journaling and overall contemplation. We started with the four noble truths and have moved on to the eight-fold path. The homework right now is to recognize how one uses speech and to see if what one says aligns with one’s overall intention. What I mean by intention is how we aspire to be in the world in general, ‘happy’, ‘okay with what is’, ‘kind to others’, etc. I would say my intention is to ‘be okay with things as they are’, and to ‘be kind and compassionate’.

It’s been interesting noticing how sometimes there is a disconnect between my intention and my speech. Sometimes, and I think this is out of boredom, I will talk about other people, gossiping if you will. When I do this, it may temporarily satisfy my boredom by giving me something to talk about with someone else, but it also puts a knot of anxiety in my stomach. Part of the homework is to not talk about anyone who isn’t present at the time, including politicians, celebrities, anyone! It feels great. Yeah, there may be less to talk about, but most of what people say to each other is kinda just idle chatter anyways, and I like talking less anyways and having more energy to put toward other tasks like writing this post, or cooking, or practicing handstands.

What a fascinating experiment, to take a fine-tooth comb to one’s actions, speech, livelihood, relationships, and to see if how one is engaging in the world is aligned with one’s overall intention. I think this practice could be translated to any aspect of one’s life. For instance, if I want to be in a long-term omantic relationship but I keep dating men who aren’t reliable and who only want to hookup, and then I wonder why my relationships aren’t working out, wouldn’t it make sense to look at what my intention is for a relationship and see if my choice of partners is helping or hurting my chances of getting what I want? We can’t force anything to happen, but we can stop saying and doing things that are getting in the way.