Teachings of the Month

Mindful Speech

Words often slip out of our mouths without much forethought. We casually share whatever we are thinking without considering how it will feel or sound to others. This may be fine in some situations, but we’ve all experienced the problems it can create. For this reason, we chose the practice of mindful speech for the month of July.

A regular spiritual practice connects us to the Spiritual Self and the ground of being we all share. This sense of connection gives rise to a natural compassion and one of the most important expressions of compassion is in how we speak to each other. In the tradition of Yoga, the intention to express ourselves in harmony with our spiritual values is called Satya,

Practicing Satya or mindful speech requires that we speak with respect and care to friend and foe alike. Mindfulness implies that we are fully present and consciously chose our words. Satya is translated as truthfulness and is practiced in harmony with Ahimsa, non-injury. For example, can I really be at peace with myself when I speak badly about others behind their backs or answer someone sharply because I’m annoyed?

I have found the teachings of Non-Violent Communication especially helpful in bringing mindful speech into action. I see the importance of listening carefully without interpreting the facts and jumping to conclusions. I also believe an important aspect of this practice is to not take to heart the comments that are spoken when someone is upset. If I can remain neutral and refrain from being triggered, I can better ascertain what timing and response will bring the most benefit.

A regular meditation practice is an important way to develop this practice since it requires that we bring awareness not just to our words, but to the intentions behind them. By sincere reflection, we can be careful to restrain ourselves from saying things that hurt others or ourselves. With regular effort, mindful speech helps us quiet our self-centered thinking and learn to be guided by our spiritual consciousness and the well-being of everyone. Practicing this way is another step toward enlightened living.

Seeing All with Awe

It’s so easy for us to take for granted this magnificent world we live in. How is it that we manage to observe our bodies, each a miniature galaxy covered with skin, the planets orbiting and the march of the penguins, and fail to be in awe? Mary Oliver says it this way in her poem, When Death Comes:

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

May we all learn to live with gratitude in our hearts as we go about our daily duties.

Gratitude – Feeling the Great-Fullness

Most of us spend a lot of time planning for or anticipating the future. Though it is natural to make plans that support our well-being, we tend to constantly look ahead thinking about what we need to be happy. In doing so, we often miss the opportunity to fully experience the present and enjoy this moment as it is. This is one of the reasons we decided to practice gratitude for the month of June.

Gratitude begins with awareness of the numerous things we already have to be grateful for. In a world where many people struggle for safety, food and shelter, we take these basics for granted and become preoccupied with comforts and possessions others may never experience.

Most of us have basically healthy bodies, and both the time for spiritual practice and access to a tremendous wealth of spiritual teachings. Gratitude implies at minimum that we acknowledge this abundance, which frees us from the “if I only had this” mentality that permeates our culture. Even better, we can commit ourselves to making good use of these teachings to shift from a me-centered to a we-centered way of living and make our world a better place.

Being grateful for what we have does not imply that we stop pursuing goals. It means that we maintain a sense of contentment as we pursue them. If we cannot be at peace with what we have now, can we really expect to be at peace with what we may achieve later?

Perhaps the highest form of appreciation is not found in what we say, but in how we live. Whenever we sincerely pause to see the magnitude of all we’ve been given, we will not fail to humbly offer thanks, and let the fullness in our hearts spill out as service in some form. May we each in some small way respond to these blessings by making peace in our hearts and bringing peace to those around us.

In a world that requires us to dwell in the head — planning, judging, reasoning and navigating technology — we can easily lose touch with our feminine qualities. This month, we pause to reflect on and honor our natural abilities to be receptive, nurturing, patient and act cooperatively. We respond with sensitivity and compassion to our fellow beings and the rhythms of our own sacred bodies.

-Swami Ramananda