Day 185 – The Guiding Principles of Mindful Speech

gossip

Zencast 185 – Mindfulness of Speaking – Part 4

One of the hardest things to stay mindful of is our speech. The best starting point for being mindful of anything is on the cushion meditating. The more we sit and study our minds while in meditation the more aware we are of our internal states and how we are functioning in the world at that present moment.

When we are aware of our inner emotional landscape it’s easier for us to follow the path of our values and principles with awareness and care.

It can be overwhelming to figure out what needs to be done to be more mindful of our speech. Here are some principles Gil suggests practitioners follow while taking the path towards liberation:

- Avoid causing harm to yourself through your speech: Negative inner talk only creates a negative inner emotional landscape. Show as much compassion to yourself as you would towards others and watch your life begin to change for the better.

- Have compassion: Minimize the harm you do onto others through your speech. Ask yourself what it is like for other people who are subject to your speech. How would you feel if someone said the same thing to you? Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

- Go beyond just coping: Maximize the good in your speech as you take steps towards awakening.

- Avoid lying: This is one of the five Buddhist precepts.

- Don’t engage in the following:
– slanderous speech: don’t speak badly about others
– harsh speech: don’t use profanities or language meant to shock
– gossip: don’t speak about others when they are not around, even if you are saying something good
– idle speech: don’t bore people with your speech or hog the conversation

Principles are a great rule sheet of things to do and not to do, however, there’s no point in following them without first asking ourselves the following questions:

How motivated are we to practice mindful speech?
Are we looking for liberation/ enlightenment?
Where does the practice of mindful speech fit into our lives?
What do we really want our lives to be about?

If we are motivated to practice, but then find ourselves gossiping idly on the phone to a friend before practicing mindful speech on the dog while doing our laundry, we may need to rethink whether we are truly motivated to practice mindful speech on the path towards liberation or simply because it seems like the ‘right thing to do’.

Don’t be afraid to consider the answers to these questions deeply. The one thing that always attracted me to Buddhism was the fact that the Buddha told practitioners to question everything and work from a place of personal practice and experience rather that just what was expressed by teachers or found in Dharma books.

I’d love to say that I’m practicing the principles I outlined above, but to be honest I’m more likely to be on the phone gossiping with friends or speaking mindfully to my cat while doing laundry. I guess that means I should get working on the principles, but I guess the truth is that I have some answers to those questions to figure out first…

Namaste

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