The words we use, the language and tone of our voices when we communicate with others is so important. We have all at some time in our lives said something we later regret, whether saying something to hurt in a moment of anger, or being unable to resist the temptation to indulge in some juicy gossip. And the power of those words to cause harm may be so much more than we thought. They can never be taken back. Once the energy of those words is in the world, their damage is done and may continue for many years.
As Robert Browning writes so presciently in ‘A Lover’s Quarrel’, what we say may not necessarily reflect our true feelings, and yet can still cause untold damage:
Not from the heart beneath –
‘ Twas a bubble born of breath
Neither sneer nor vaunt
Nor reproach nor taunt.
See a word, how it severeth!
Oh, power of life and death
In the tongue, as the Preacher saith!
Some of our speech may be empty of true meaning, as empty as a bubble and disconnected from the truth of our hearts. Our throat chakra, Vishuddhi, is situated between Anahata, the heart chakra, and Ajna, lying in the brain. When we are focused and centred in our true selves, our speech will reflect the wisdom of both the head and the heart. Yoga encourages us to adopt right speech, tasting our words before we speak them, assessing whether they are kind, whether they are true, whether they are necessary. How much of what we say is completely unnecessary?! The quality of truthfulness, satya, is one of the five yamas of Raja yoga. This quality is not only about our speech, but also about living our life honestly and decently, in line with our own spiritual values.
I recently came across a prayer to the Divine Mother, in the excellent book Living the Practice: Collected Writings on the Transformative Potential of Yoga by Swami Radhananda, which begins:
May all my speech and idle talk be mantra
A mantra is a word or phrase which is repeated in yoga and meditation practice and which connects us to our spirit. The thought of all our speech being mantra is inspiring. Could we really elevate our every word to the level of mantra, using our speech to connect us with our spirit, and that of those we are talking to, rather than disconnecting as we so often do in our everyday speech? When we gossip about others, we are creating the illusion of ‘them and us’, looking for differences between individuals, and creating separation. When we speak unkindly, when we criticise others, we are using the power of our speech to disconnect from the person we are talking to, rather than building a connection from our heart to theirs. By consciously improving the quality of our speech, by connecting what comes out of our mouths with our hearts, our minds and our inner spirit, we begin to live truthfully and to honour the oneness of ourselves with everybody else.
Changing the way we speak can be so hard. Like any habit, gossip or criticism can take a long time to weed out. But perhaps a good way to start is to choose just one aspect you’d like to change, from raising your voice to gossiping about a neighbour or acquaintance you don’t like. Once we become conscious of the need for change, of how our behaviour is creating separation, both between ourselves and someone else, and between our actions and our true spirit or motivation, we can continue to take small steps in the right direction. We will at times get it wrong, and revert back to our old ways, but we keep on trying, until it becomes easier and easier. Until, one day, you notice that you really are more conscious in your interactions with others, that your speech really is like mantra, and totally aligned with your inner values.