I read an interesting blog post from the Velveteen Rabbi (Rabbi Barenblat) about mindful speech. The import of the post was that mindful speech can be refraining from saying/writing things that are hurtful or saying/writing speech in a way that is more restrained than a lot of the speech that occurs in our instantaneous, internet connected world. She has a link to an article about shaming and the damage that it does to those who are piled upon by the shaming and outrage community. She starts her post with the apparently new practice of some Christians of taking a fast from social media. She prefers the idea of moderating tone rather than a complete fast—thinking for a bit before posting something mean or snarky. She points out that some people also do this during Elul.
Rabbi Barneblat tries to ask: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it important? I believe that I have seen this or a very similar list of questions before. My book co-creator, Linda Lewis, and I describe Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be this way:
“Opening the Heart provides a way for those seeking to find their heart's stories and bring them to light as well as grounding deeply into the self. As workshop participants have said, the stunning photographs and text of the images provide a path to:
• bring openness into your life and heart
• go on a journey unlike any other
• travel into your heart with ease
• build a new relationship with yourself
Opening the Heart can also help you to:
The result of all this can be taking that second, deep breath before we speak or write something vitriolic, hurtful and devastating or just plain snarky. Yes, there is a place in life for seeking justice in relation to the situations that cause outrage, but I believe that this can be done without snarkiness, without putting someone’s life, home, family, and work in jeopardy. Can we at least ask ourselves whether we would be alright with someone doing the same to us?
I suppose it can be asked as the question “How do we want to be in relationship to ourselves, to others, to the world, and the divine?” This is another way that working with Opening the Heart helps us find our way, find how we want to be, find the story that lives within us, and find the story that we want to tell. And, in finding the story of how we wish to be, moving into that way, and telling that story in the world can lead us to compassion for ourselves (meditation number 54) and compassion for others (meditation image number 53). Having compassion means finding a way to bring about internal change and transformation. It means succinctly, at times, giving yourself or someone else a break. We tend (including me) to be too hard on ourselves, too judgmental about what we have said or done or not said or done. We can carry this tendency to be harsh and judgmental into our world view and our view of others. I do try to remind myself that I do not know what is going on in someone else’s life.
"Compassion for Others.
Part of the path of life is to learn to have compassion for others. Compassion helps us grow, to change and to heal. We cannot as easily bring these things to others without first learning compassion.
What does compassion feel like? Does it have a sound, a taste, a color? How do you sense it? What can you do to help it blossom out into the world?"
"Compassion for yourself.
The wellspring of compassion is deep within ourselves. We create more and more compassion by giving it to ourselves, and then by giving it to others. Nurture compassion for yourself first because you cannot as easily give it to others if you do not give it yourself. After all, how will you recognize compassion for others if you do not recognize it for yourself?
In what ways can you nurture compassion for yourself? What can you do to know it when you “see it?”
This may seem a somewhat circuitous path to talking about mindful speech, but I believe one of the ways that mindful speech rises up out of us is through mindfulness and heartfulness, through compassion for ourselves and others. I think that Thomas Moore, author of Writing in the Sand and other books, psychologist and former priest, might say that it takes a shift in vision (Metanoia as he calls it in his book), sometimes a radical shift in vision for some of us.
One of the practical ways to practice mindful speech (and, frankly mindful action) is to practice the Golden Rule—acting towards others as you would like them to act towards you. I believe I read somewhere that almost all religions have a variant of the Golden Rule. It is easy—too easy some would say—to respond, especially anonymously, on the internet to something we read that outrages us, to make someone’s life miserable by publishing their private information on line (so that others can find them and go after them as well), to say the nasty things that we might bite our tongue not to say if we were standing in front of them. It can be too easy to yell at the store clerk about a policy they did not set, not take a breath and think that the other person we are dealing with may be having a terrible day. Or jump in with advice that is not want and has not been asked for.