Tag Archives: rightspeech

University of Life

Sometimes the best lessons from our university days are those we learn outside of the classroom.  –Julian Lynn

On one long weekend while I was attending university, I travelled several hours to visit a close girlfriend’s family. They lived several hours away.

My friend possessed many talents and gifts, yet social affability was not one of them. It was confusing for me to watch the uncomfortable social situations she created through her general suspicion and caginess around other people. From my limited perspective, it was as though she had never really learned how to occupy the space Grace had granted her, choosing instead to alternate between insecurity and a rather intense, blustery indignity which rarely allowed her to shine or even simply relax and be herself in community.

Spirituality

As with almost all of the extended weekend visits I took during my college days, Friday night’s meet-and-greet with the family was more formal in nature than the rest of the weekend.  There was nothing during that initial phase of being introduced to my friend’s family that could explain her social awkwardness.

Then, as the sun rolled over onto Saturday morning, I lay in bed considering what I needed to get done in terms of homework that day. The guest room happened to be on the first floor of the home, and it was stationed adjacent to the kitchen. My door was ajar.

As I lay there in bed, contemplating plans for the day, I was amazed to overhear what I assumed to be old family verbal patterns reemerging. The conversation was nothing like those which had been in evidence the previous night.

As my girlfriend attempted to help her mother prepare breakfast in the kitchen, my friend was showered with an ongoing barrage of complaints about the nature of the kitchen’s layout, the inefficient manner in which my friend was attempting to help, how my friend’s contributions were somehow subpar. And, perhaps, most telling was the general prickly refrain, “You are always in the way.”

In defence of my friend’s right to exist, I remember muttering under my breath, “Why did you bother to have children, if you don’t even like them?” Then, becoming more philosphical about the situation, I asked myself the larger question: Why do people have children if they are only going to berate them verbally, withdraw their emotional support, as well as decry their very existence?

In some families, audio tracks are actually handed down generation to generation like a series of precious heirlooms when, in reality, it would have been better for everyone if these soundtracks had simply been erased. From my clients and students, I have learned that the lengthy process of erasure or overdubbing of these tracks can be a struggle. Not everything a parent “gifts” us is meant to be cherished or held onto. Not everything an adult or parent says is meant to go into a child’s psyche. So, if you are a parent, or an adult around children, choose your words carefully. You are on the air. This session is live. What you say is being recorded. The soundtrack you are laying down will be replayed. Words matter.

Spirituality & the Weight of Words

“Don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move. Move the way joy makes you move.”

—Osho

Starting back to university after several years away, I find myself in an awkward social position. I am too old to be a typical university student and too young to be classified as an older, returning student. In addition to the issue of age, I am now married and the mother of a young child. As much as I want to be able to focus exclusively on my renewed studies, I also hope to find a few close friends among my new classmates.

Providence rewards my hope with a friend in the design studio, who is both my peer in age and who is also in a committed relationship.

Spirituality

Joan is from the Coast and was reared in an academic family. Thus, she is well bred and well spoken. We share artistic and intellectual exchanges full of wit and humor. And, because some of my time away from university was spent studying in the region of Joan’s upbringing, we share certain place references, which are not shared with anyone else in the art department. The commonalities that are part of our friendship also extend, to a certain degree, to our individual aesthetic preferences.

A number of semesters, a few dinner parties and several outings later, Joan and I find ourselves together in yet another class, when a new woman, Sarah, in her early forties joins our class.

Although completely untrained as an artist or designer, Sarah has been working as a paid, freelance graphic designer in the community. In terms of temperament, she is hesitant and quite insecure about her innate gifts as a designer and draughtsman, even though she clearly has the hand of a skilled, untrained draughtsman with an eye for design. Sarah creates simple, pleasing brochures which include her own drawings. Her return to school for more training is spurred on by a handful of clients who have been requesting more advanced work from her. She hopes that some additional training will help her grow her confidence and her innate artistic skills.

As the content of Sarah’s portfolio becomes known within the department, the rift between fine art and commercial art is laid bare. And, socially, a certain amount of distancing occurs between Sarah and the main body of traditional students.

For an already insecure soul, this not-so-subtle distancing can be acutely painful. In an attempt to close the growing space around this woman, I offer Sarah several olive-branch conversations, remembering how I felt when I first returned to university with no real sense of place. But, what I do not anticipate is the painful, under-the-breath verbal sniping that Joan is soon engaging in, as Joan and I sit working next to one another in the same class as Sarah.

My intellect understands that in many respects these women are experiential worlds apart, yet my heart is injured with each uncharitable statement, about Sarah or her work, issuing from Joan’s mouth. Finally, after two weeks of silence toward Joan’s uncharitable speech, I turn to face her—knowing that my stand may cost me a precious friendship.

“Open your heart, Joan,” I murmur emphatically. It is all that I can think to say. And, with this one statement, the verbal sniping comes to a complete stop.

For several weeks, there is a quiet between Joan and myself as I cocoon myself in my studio work and wonder how everything is going to work itself out. Then, as we near the end of semester, I learn that Joan has extended not only an olive branch, but an entire olive bough to Sarah.  After several weeks of getting to know one another and finding common ground, Joan has committed to looking after Sarah’s family pets while Sarah is on vacation with her family.

Words have weight, meaning and impact, whether words are directed toward us, at a situation, coming from us toward someone else or being applied by us to an external set of circumstances. Choosing our words with care shapes the manner in which we enter into a dialogue with the world around us—to mend relationships, take down barriers or change the course of someone’s life. All of us need to continue the practice choosing our words with an ear to our hearts and supreme care.

Spirituality: People in the News

While I was attending graduate school, my husband took contracts as a foreign-language interpreter. As a working professional, he was invited to join a small group of interpreter/translators, who met monthly in the metropolitan area where we resided. (Interpreters work with spoken language; translators work with written language.)

Although we were very busy, these monthly luncheons and dinners were much anticipated, joyous events with an international vibe, which included husbands, wives and sometimes children. A great deal of business information was shared, as well as the occasional matter regarding our personal lives.

Spirituality

The group’s informal membership represented a wide range of cultures. Many members had a wife or a husband who had emigrated, after marrying a U.S. citizen who had been overseas studying or on exchange. Thus, there was always something interesting, new or fun to learn from someone.

One afternoon, after sitting down to lunch in a small restaurant conference room, I heard several people discussing a recent tragedy which had been in the local news. (A local family had lost their only child in an accident.)

As the incident was discussed, I listened in surprised silence as minute details, which had not been part of the news reports, were carefully related to the membership in attendance. The discussion was not a sensationalistic disclosure, but a compassionate and concerned relating of the accident’s unpublished details and emotional facts.

At the time, I remember observing the tender care the speaker was taking in relating additional  information about a very public news item and wondering why such a level of discretion was being applied to an incident which has been broadcast over almost every medium in the city.

Then, at some point in the telling, it became clear the the “people in the news”–the strangers–were actually a family who had attended an interpreter-translator meeting, which my husband and I had missed.

My heart fell. This “news item” was not about “those” people in the community out there, but it was about “our” people in our immediate community right here.

We are all “the people in the news.”

Thus, all tragedy should be addressed, spoken about, reported on and reacted to–with this same level of compassion, as if whatever has occurred has happened to one of our own.

Words

Spirituality

Standing at the bottom of the Public Library’s flight of stairs to its back entrance, I wait my turn to ascend, as a tall, lean and distinguished man of African-American descent descends–one stair at a time.

There is a sense that time is infinite when you run on God’s time. And, I am running on God’s time today.

Having reached the bottom of the stairs, the gentleman comments to me, in way of apology, “I feel like an old man today with this limp.”

Catching his eye, underneath the baseball cap he is wearing over a neatly pressed set of bluejeans and an immaculately clean t-shirt, I volley, “That is one sexy limp.”

Chuckling, he replies, “Thank you for that.  That sure makes me feel good.”

Over my shoulder, I respond, “You have a good day, sir.”

Still ruminating on our exchange as I climb the stairs to the doorway, I hear him comment on his walk to his vehicle, “Mmmm, hmmm. You sure did make me feel good.”

As the door to the Library closes behind me, I consider how much goodwill our short exchange has generated, through the mere statement of a readily observable truth.  What that man does not know is just how much his kind words of gratitude have helped me, frosting the basic cake of my otherwise ordinary day.

As for the rest of my errands, I think I will be wearing frosting-sprinkles in my hair. So, if I seem a little more sparkly today, it is because of these kind words from a complete stranger.

Spirituality & Non-truths

Last night, a restaurant owner told me a non-truth.

“So what?” you might ask.

Spirituality

I made an inquiry about the evening’s menu offerings and was told that there was an issue with vegetable availability. I knew this was a non-truth because the restauranteur’s energetic field went from being its natural, shiny and luminescent self to a dull and deeply non-luminescent haze. The observation of this radical, spiritual shift was painful for me to observe, as I had come to trust this individual to speak truthfully with me.

Internally, I countered with the questions, “Really?  You have to lie to me about vegetable availability?” (Vegetable availability is generally a non-issue in the US restaurant industry, unless an establishment is committed to serving locally-sourced, fresh produce.)

Non-truths, when wittingly thought, held, spoken or acted upon, cause Spirit to become damaged or injured.  Even simple, so-called, “white” lies, such as this non-truth would qualify to be labelled, are injurious to the person speaking them and disrespectful of the inner Light abiding in would-be hearers.

Truths, non-truths and attempting to understand what the Truth might be are things with which all of us struggle—because it is often difficult for us to sort through and articulate our very personal, internal emotional experiences about the world, as well as our being habituated to living the bulk of our time quite separate from the inner sanctum of the heart, where ultimate Reality or pure Spirit resides.

When I first became aware of how critical connecting myself to my perception of my current, working Truth was, I ended up choosing to move into silence.

At the time that I moved into silence, I felt there were almost no words or perceptions that I could safely state without bumping up against some form of non-truth.  Then, I entered a phase where I qualified my verbal observations with clauses such as, “My current perception of the situation is…,” “It may be that…,”  or “It seems to me, at this time, as though….”  My hope was that by couching my observations amid these qualifiers, I could remain open to questions about what the “Truth” was, is, or might be, as well as avoiding further damage to my inner Light.

What I have learned is this:  Words and the manner in which they are used are—potentially—powerful tools and shapers of our experiential reality.  In most cases, I have found it is better to check my perception of “Reality,” with two key questions, “What is going on here?”  and “How, if at all, am I to be involved in this situation or with this/these person/people?”

Silence has become a dear friend and a critical place of refuge, because, more often than not, we are operating, drawing conclusions, making decisions and engaging in concrete actions based upon incomplete, inaccurate or out-right false narratives. Still, there are times when we must speak and act in order to better learn about a situation, place, person, time and to discern the extent to which we should or should not become actively involved in a set of circumstances.

Thus, the next time a group of words leaves your mouth, consider the manner in which you are sharing your personal observations or current, working truth and how you might retool your word choices or what you choose to share, so that you are speaking, as accurately as possible, about your perception regarding the Truth of a situation.  It is one of the best ways to honor Spirit.