Thursday, February 21, 2013

Walk your Talk

Harder even than mindful listening is mindful speech.

How often do you pause before speaking to think about what you're going to say? Maybe at a job interview, people think before speaking. Also possibly in psychotherapy sometimes (though the juiciest bits in therapy are times when the client blurts out something freshly risen from the unconscious). People about to propose marriage probably choose their words carefully, maybe even rehearse before popping the question. I could go on but you get the picture.

But in general, we in my society are not careful speakers. The practice of thinking before speaking is something I find excruciating. One of the methods I've tried involves asking myself, before uttering a single word, "What do I hope to accomplish by saying this?" Nine times out of ten, I have no goal in mind except to share all the interesting things I'm thinking about. When I pause, whomever I'm speaking with invariably starts or continues talking, oblivious. Sometimes I think people will say anything just to capture the floor as it were.

I've also undertaken 24 hour word fasts from time to time. It is so hard to keep my mouth shut. I have many fabulously interesting things to say at all times! Don't you?

We who are in the business of massage therapy are renowned for mindless speech. I've received massages from people who never stopped talking for a second throughout the session. I find it unpleasant and believe the talking does not add to the benefits of massage since yacking therapists become distracted by their reverie and hence aren't able to pay attention to what they're doing. I have one client who prefers to chat while on the table. Most people enjoy an hour of peace in which they can space out, daydream or focus on the sensation of massage.

Likewise I do not appreciate the unnecessary diagnoses many therapists feel they must share with their clients. I'm talking about statements like "Your back is so tight!" As if we, the receivers, don't already know. The use of words like knots to describe muscle tension is never appropriate. It's inaccurate and plants a seed in the mind of the receiver that I believe can make him or her feel worse. Muscles do not ever tie themselves in knots!

If it were up to me, I would require all health care workers to practice mindful speech. It's a big problem. The things doctors say to their patients are appalling. I hear stories literally every day and wonder what they were trying to accomplish by saying such horrible things. When we're ill or in pain, we are suggestible. We health care practitioners should be especially mindful.

One of the foulest forms of mindless speech is what we call gossip. I'm not referring to the practice of sharing news about other people. Gossip involves saying something about a person who is not present, something you wouldn't say to his or her face. That kind of talk is poisonous to both the speaker and the listener. It can also be toxic for the person who is being gossiped about. I know this from personal experience. Gossip is toxic.

We're lucky to have the right combination of vocal chords, tongue, teeth, lips and breath which which to make speech. I know we do the best we can when it comes to mindful speech. It is really hard.

May you speak clearly and mindfully today. May you speak well today of yourself and others. May it be so. Shalom.

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