Mindfulness of Speech is an essential aspect of the spiritual path. Mindfulness techniques can increase ones ability to feel and respond to suffering.

A talk on mindfulness of speech by Donald Rothberg:

This evening is a theme that really continues from last night. And the theme for this evening is speech practice and mindfulness looking at a number of different forms of mindfulness practice that really are part of, or contribute, to our speech practice. And I’ll invite us all, just like I did last night, to listen both internally and externally to stay with yourselves as you also listen. We will repeat this thing from time to time during the retreat, and I will intend to do the same. I will intend to keep inner awareness as I speak.

In fact, one of my mentors when I was starting to do a lot more teaching and giving talks in this context, his guidance for me was this: “Do whatever preparation you do, but when you get to the talk, be in your body, stay in your belly and your heart, and let your thoughts self-organize.” You may try that next time you do public speaking. It’s quite interesting. It’s a practice. So, that really is a practice for me.

And so, I will really try to stay attentive.

So, last night we explored speech practice as an integral part of the path of awakening, and we looked particularly at one form of speech practice related to the ethical principles connected with speech, and these are really the main teachings on speech that we get from the historical Buddha interestingly. And so, what I want to explore tonight, I think, can be read as having been implicit in the teachings of the Buddha that one should be mindful in speech. But a lot of the techniques that we are mentioning, or virtually of what we are all covering, was not reconstructed from text, but is more the creative attempt of contemporaries to layout some of what speech practice looks like in ways that are helpful and skillful. And so, I want to talk particularly about five (5) forms of mindfulness that are central for our speech practice. Several of which, we’ve already began to explore.

So, I want to come back to the theme of connecting inner and outer at the same thing. I want to come back to the theme of the importance of mindfulness of the body for our speech practice. I want to work a little more depth about how we develop mindfulness in relationship to the ethical principles. And, I want, also, to look at the way that we can understand non-violent communication as a form of mindfulness practice. And then, lastly, say a little bit about the importance of mindfulness of thoughts and emotions in our speech practice.

And I’ll actually give a little more attention there, because that’s something we haven’t really covered yet and then we’ll segue with some of our, will do, with the work tomorrow morning. So, that’s my intention. And, I also want to talk generally, some, about the nature of mindfulness.

What is mindfulness? How do we practice it? What’s its importance really? And, where does it fit in to the larger model of practice?

So, one way that I often like to think about practice, this virtually brings together all the tools—mindfulness, and loving, kindness, and wisdom practice and so forth, is that, one of the ways I’d like to think about the whole idea of practice is as what we might call appropriate response to each moment as it comes. And I’m reminded of this wonderful story which has inspired a lot of people of his teacher who was asked near the end of his life: “What is the meaning of enlightenment?” And you might think that you might get some kind of philosophical answer, or maybe this really complicated metaphysical answer, like enlightenment is understanding the interpenetration of self and other without fixation on objects, and the myths stuff, the overflowing heart connecting with the wisdom mind and— (people laughs). We get trained to do that. So, but the zen teacher didn’t say that.

He didn’t give a conventional answer. He didn’t talk about nirvana, or anything very conventional. He said, what is enlightenment appropriate response? Very down to earth. Understanding of what we’re intending.

Appropriate response becomes clear, that appropriate response is something that we do moment by moment as we live. And one way that I like to think of our practice in a very simple way as appropriate response is to think of it like this—mindfulness tells us what’s happening in the moment. Mindfulness is like our information system that tells us how I’m feeling and what my emotions are, what thoughts are going through, what repetitive patterns of mind that I’m noticing, or can also tell me very simply, I’m very warm. Mindfulness says I know that. On the basis of mindfulness, on the basis of knowing what is occurring, we summon our best wisdom and compassion to decide how should I respond, and that’s the moment of intention.

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About the author 

Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]