Day 182 – Just Press Pause
I used to let words fly out my mouth and then wonder why people flew off the handle. I used to follow the energy of my body, desperate for release, and end up in situations that felt too close to going to a place of physicality that I wasn’t comfortable with.
There are many words that build up in our minds, most of which we would never say to another human being. Yet, sometimes we are so desperate to be heard by anyone, including ourselves, that we’ll say the craziest of things just to feel again.
I’ve come to realize that my body is a great indicator for mindfulness of speech. Most of the time I ignore it, but reactions from emotions and thoughts are constantly flowing through it.
For example, if someone is angry with me or says something I find offensive, my shoulders tense up and my heart beat immediately moves into flight or fight mode. My torso, arms and hands begin to shake and my voice becomes breathy, high-pitched and sometimes breaks.
All these body functions are signs that I need to press pause. I need to use my internal remote control to take a moment and figure out what’s going on inside. Otherwise I’ll proceed without caution and although I’ll know deep within that my reactions may not be the best reactions, it will be impossible for me to stop myself. I’ll be watching myself headed for a collision.
It’s not easy to press pause and take a moment. Our primal brains still have a strong grasp over us when you realize all you want to do is lash out or run. It’s only been through the practice of mindfulness that I’ve been able to take more of a moment to consider, to see where I stand, to find out if I’m responding from emotion or consideration.
I’m not perfect at this yet. There are still times when I watch myself say something heartless and cold for no other reason than I’m frustrated or working from a place that has much more to do with me than the person who’s being attacked. For me, it’s important to work from places where I have more control in order to cultivate my mindfulness of speech. At the moment, one way I’m doing this is through email.
I used to hit reply and spout off a bunch of words, hit send and then worry about the consequences later. This has led to some pretty traumatic confrontations with people that were not intentional, just thoughtless. Now, when I receive an email that I want to respond to immediately I sit with it for a moment. I talk a short walk, even if it’s just around the room. I ask myself what my intention for my reply is. Is it from a place of love and compassion or a place of frustration, fear and anger? Either way I then take time to craft my words carefully in my head. This is especially important because I find that so much meaning in email is lost in the sending.
As long as I take the time to follow these steps, if I then choose to respond, the consequences can then be learned from. If the interaction is good I know I’ve done good work with right speech. If the interaction is negative then I know I still have work to do.
Even these posts are a great way for me to practice right speech. I listen to a podcast, let it simmer within me for about half a day (sometimes I even forget them, oops!) and then I sit down and pour out all my ideas in 750words. After that I copy and paste into WordPress and then read over my post several times, editing it as I go, before I finally hit publish.
If only life worked like that – giving us the ability to pour it all out, edit it down and check it for love and compassion before speaking. But it doesn’t, so, our best option is just to press pause and consider that whatever happens next is then just another lesson to be learned.