Mindfulness of speech

Have you ever noticed how people most often tend to start their sentences? Have you ever paid attention to how you yourself tend to start your own sentences?

Before acquiring some measure of mindfulness about ourselves—how we are when we are alone, how we hold the body when we are standing, walking, speaking to someone, how the posture is when we sit down, how it feels to wash the hands before eating, how it feels to rinse the shampoo out of our hair in the shower; how we are with others, how we interact, how we speak, how we engage, how we listen—before we gain some mindfulness of these basic aspects of our life, we are not aware of the context in which these details arise. We therefore behave, act and react, in an automatic unconscious manner.

As a result, we, ourselves and most people we know, generally have this in common: practically everything we think and say starts with the word, the article, “I”: “I think that”, “I believe that”, “I feel that”, “I want to”, “I don’t want to”, “I like this”, “I don’t like that”, “I love this”, “I hate that”, and on and on.

This is true whether we are talking to friends, people we just met, family members we’ve known our whole life, or talking to ourselves: “I need to pee”, “I’m hungry”, “I’m thirsty”, “I’m tired”, “I’m sick of this”, and on and on endlessly.

How can we ever actually listen to someone, actually hear what they are saying, take interest in them, understand them, feel their joy or their sadness when they are talking to us, if the only thing we have unconsciously trained ourselves to do is to think and talk about ourselves?

Self-concerned, self-centred, self-absorbed.

But we don’t want to be like that. Do we? So, the first step to take in outgrowing this childish tendency perfected over our lifetime is to become mindful of it. We need to become able to see ourselves doing it. Once we have, more space will immediately become available to us.

This space will allow us to see ourselves more clearly and provide a measure of freedom by which we can begin to exercise a choice in how we speak and how we listen. Through this, we will naturally begin to think differently, see differently, listen differently, and hear differently, more openly, more consciously, more mindfully, and less selfishly.

Try it. When someone tells you something, don’t reply by telling them something about you to shift the focus of the conversation to yourself. Instead, ask them another question. Get them to speak so you can practice listening. Shift your self-centred tendency to taking an interest in them. Shift self-interest to interest towards others: other people, other subjects, other ideas.

Practicing mindfulness of speech is simple: speak less, listen more, and most importantly, listen to yourself speak.