In the Four Agreements; A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, Miguel Ruiz says to "be impeccable with your word". This is a lofty goal, but definitely one to aspire to.
We should never underestimate the power that our words have.
They can heal, create, soothe, and join people together.
They can also hurt, destroy, weaken, and tear people apart.
Most likely, at least once, every one of us has put our foot in our mouth, spilled a secret that we promised not to tell, gossiped behind someone's back, or hurt someone with our words. In the heat of the moment we often forget that what we say, we can't take back.
We can back peddle, apologize, try to pretend we didn't actually say it, but often these remedies are like putting a teeny tiny bandaid on a giant gaping wound. The sting of our words can do damage that lasts for a very long time.
Being impeccable with your word requires mindfulness.
Observe yourself for a few days and you will learn what your tendencies are. Do you talk to fill the air? Do you speak impulsively? Do you choose your words carefully or do you choose your words with carelessness?
To make sure that your words don't cause unnecessary harm, a good rule of thumb is to practice the Three Gates of Speech. Asking yourself the following three questions will take you through a process to ensure that the words you are about to say are chosen carefully and with thoughtfulness.
1. Is it true?
This can be tricky. When we were kids we would play the telephone game. The first person would whisper something in someone's ear and that person would repeat what they heard to the next person. This would go around the circle until the last person would share what they had heard. There was always an eruption of laughter when the first person revealed what they really said.
Unless it is your story to tell or it is an undisputed fact, most repeated stories.....ie, gossip, are NOT true, so don't repeat them. If what you are about to say is true, you can open the first gate, but you must get through the next two gates before you speak.
2. Is it kind?
We all know whether what we are about to say is kind or not. Sometimes we say hurtful things and say we didn't mean it, but we always mean it on some level. What good does it do to hurt someone on purpose?
Like my mom said, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
Sounds pretty simple but there are exceptions to every rule, which leads to the last gate of speech.
3. Is it necessary?
This is the "gate" that requires the most mindfulness before stepping through. Sometimes we find ourselves in a predicament. Should we tell our friend the truth of what we know even if it will be painful for him or her to hear? Even if it may risk her relationship with another? Even if we aren't certain what the consequences will be. That's the thirty million dollar question. There is no simple answer, but a heart felt and well thought out process will help you make your decision.
Most spiritual practices teach the importance of right and honest speech. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says, "When established in truthfulness, everything one says comes true."
Aspiring to say only what is true, kind, and necessary is an excellent way to stay true to yourself and others.
Last week when I walked into my regular Wednesday morning yoga class, I realized that I no longer cared where I put my mat.
After I sat down, I thought to myself, "Huh"...... a year ago, I would have had many more requirements before placing my mat just anywhere. If someone was in "my" spot, I would have purposefully scanned the room for a spot that was:
a. in the front
b. near a wall
c. not near anyone that didn't appear calm and balanced
d. not in a place that didn't feel right
When I thought about it after class, I remembered that last year I had set a New Year's intention to change "my" spot each time I attended my Wednesday morning yoga class.
I chose this because I realized that I had gotten so attached to my location in the room that I was creating suffering for myself.
If I would walk into class and someone was in what I considered to be my spot, I would be left feeling out of sorts. I knew I was in trouble when I would start to worry that my spot wouldn't be there before I even got to the studio.
With much effort and resolve, on January 1, 2013, I committed to choosing a different spot in class every Wednesday. It was difficult at first, I took baby steps, staying as close as I could to my old spot without actually being in it. As I sat in a new spot, I used a mantra to talk myself into being okay in this unfamiliar place. I had to work hard to remain focused, and take deep breaths to stay centered because my balance would sometimes feel off.
Over time however, it became easier and easier to be in a new place in the classroom. Then at some point, without even realizing it, my habit and attachment to "my" spot was gone.
Habits are formed when we repeat a pattern over and over again. Our physical, mental, and emotional bodies can form habits pretty easily. These pesky little habits can be very hard to get rid of.
In yoga philosophy, a habit or repetitive pattern is called a samskara. Pantajali says that a samskara is like a grove in the sand. Each time the water flows there, the groove gets deeper. At some point, the groove gets so deep that the water has no choice but to flow right back into the groove.
Like a groove in sand, each time we think, feel, or behave in a certain way, we create a pathway in our brain that makes it more likely that we will think, feel, or behave the same way again. With each repetition of the thought, feeling, or action, the pathway becomes stronger and deeper. Without a keen awareness of our mind state, our samskaras can run our lives making us think, feel, and react out of habit.
Anger, sadness, judgement, and guilt are just a few habitual reactions that keep us stuck in a negative mind state.
Because of this tendency to unconsciously repeat patterns, our emotional, physical, and mental samskaras require a conscious effort to change.
The first step is being aware of the habit. You know you have formed a habit when you feel like you have no choice in the way you think, feel, or behave in certain situations.
Feel your emotions.
Breaking your attachment involves feeling the discomfort and staying in it anyway. Breathe into the feelings as they arise and pass, then take a step back and wait before you choose your next action.
Make a commitment to change and then enlist the support of others who care about you. Letting others know can hold you accountable for the change that you seek.
Use a mantra or a phrase that you repeat regularly to disconnect your habitual mind from the negative pattern and help to create a new and positive one.
Practice conscious breathing or meditation on a regular basis to strengthen your connection to yourself and weaken the mind's tendency to run wild.
Yoga, at it's core is about breaking up and purifying our samskaras in the body, mind, and heart so that we can live and enjoy life in the present moment.
I am not a fan of the New Year's Resolution. To me, it always has an underlying negative message that can leave me feeling bad about myself.
"I want to give up sugar" says, "I am so unhealthy!"
"I want to be more organized" says, " I am a mess!"
Creating a change for the better at the beginning of each year is a great concept, but more often than not our attempts to follow through with our New Year's Resolutions fail.
A yogic version of the resolution is called a sankulpa.
A sankulpa is similar to a resolution in that it focuses on creating a healthy change. It is different because we are asked look deeper into the reason behind the change we would like to create. So instead of a resolution that says, " I want to lose weight which means no more late night eating.", a sankulpa would explore what thoughts or feelings might be driving the behavior. Maybe the late night eating has become a way to self soothe and avoid facing difficult emotions. Becoming aware of what motivates an unhealthy habit is the first step in finding a way to change it.
A sankulpa is an intention that we set in the most loving way towards ourselves. It is a clear and concise phrase or mantra that we can repeat regularly. A sankulpa to lose weight might go something like this, "I eat late at night to stuff down my feelings. I will allow my feelings to arise and then to pass which will keep my mind, heart, and body open to love."
Creating your sankulpa might require a bit of soul searching or at least a little quiet time so you can turn your attention inward and really become aware of the changes that you would like to make.
Once you have decided on the change you are seeking you can create your sankulpa by setting a positive intention, focusing on what you want, not on what you don't want.
Make sure you use the present tense in your statement and don't use any negative words. ie. "I am courageous and ready for a new and rewarding relationship" sends a better message than " I won't be afraid to start a new relationship this year."
Finally, let go of the result and stay present and attentive to the process. ie. when fear arises and you don't follow through with your intention to be courageous, forgive yourself, repeat your mantra, and try it again remembering that change doesn't happen overnight.
They say, "where attention goes, energy flows". A sankulpa can be very powerful because it keeps your attention focused on the life affirming changes that you would like to create.
So, if you are like me and New Year's Resolutions leave you feeling bad about yourself, consider making a New Year's Sankulpa instead.
Wishing you a kind and peaceful 2014.
All Abhyasa Ahimsa Aparigraha Asmita-Ego Attachment Baron Baptiste Beginner's Mind Bramacharya Carl Jung Clear Seeing Colorless Comfortable Discomfort Creating Spaciousness In Mind And Body Cultivate The Opposite Deepak Chopra Dharma Empty Your Cup Enthusiasm Equanimity Family Fight Or Flight Great Vows Inner-awareness Inner Critic John Kabbatzinnb2faff332d Listening Mirrors To Ourselves Monkey Hunting Non Stealing Patanjali Pause Pillar Pleasure And Pain Posseses Us Practice Pratipaksa Bhavana Pratyahara Present Moment Present Moment Awareness Respond Instead Of React Samadhi Samskara Santosha Satya Sauca Sensual Pleasures Shadow Side Spirituality Steadiness And Ease Sthira And Sukha Strength Sustained Attention Svadhyaya There You Are Thich Nat Hahn This Too Shall Pass True Self Uncertainty Universal Truth What We Possess Wherever You Go Wisdom Yoga Philosophy Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras