The Journey with Words, Part 2: Wise Speaking

As compelling as it may be at times to linger in silence and open listening, our compassionate engagement with the world often moves us to speak, to respond. This talk explores part of the Buddha's Instructions to Rahula at Mango Stone, when the Buddha advises his young son to reflect on the effects of his words before, during and after speech and whether they lead to harm or benefit. Reflecting with curiosity on our own speech in this way leads to greater sensitivity in our interactions, as well as a deeper understanding of our own minds.
 

For Your Contemplation

Play with this instruction to reflect on your speech 'before, during and after.' This is not an "am I doing it right?" or "am I good enough?" kind of reflection or a discursive analysis, but a curious inquiry. Our relational patterns are some of the mostly deeply held, and the willingness to let an interaction be awkward or go in a different direction can be revelatory. One way to do this gently is by pausing and inquiring, especially in a situation with charge:

Before: What is my motivation here?

During: What's it like? Where is this leading? Am I willing to stop if needed?

After: How was that? What did I learn?

In the last part of his advice to Rahula, the Buddha also suggested that if we notice that our speech did indeed lead to benefit rather than harm we should 'stay mentally refreshed and joyful.' How willing (or resistant) are we to acknowledging the good?