Right Speech: Four important choices that turn your words into tiny emissaries of goodness and power.

November 6, 2017   |   4 Comments

The meditation begins at 7:15
Audio only version is here.

Hello dear meditators. It is great to see you!

In meditation, we bring mindfulness to three aspects of our existence. First, we are mindful of our bodies in the way we establish the meditation posture. Second, we become mindful of breath by allowing our attention to ride the breath. Finally, we are mindful of our minds by observing the rise and fall of thought, feeling, and sensation.

All of this translates into our post-meditation experience, aka the rest of our lives. Mindfulness of body comes into play in the way we establish our presence in any situation. We can use that presence to engender both gentleness and sharpness. Mindfulness of mind allows us access to our insights, attitudes, judgments, and ideas. We can use that awareness to create wisdom and compassion.

Just between body and mind is breath. In meditation practice, breath is your basic inhale and exhale. In life, breath takes form as speech. Just as our physical presence and internal awareness can telegraph gentleness, sharpness, wisdom, and compassion (or their opposites), so can our speech. It may sound obvious to say that speech is our primary connection to others, but we often pay little attention to how we actually use this capacity.

In Buddhist thought, Right Speech is thought to be one of the eight steps along the path to enlightenment, immediately following Right View (1) and Right Intention (2). Which is awesome. It is very cool to think that the way we talk could actually lead to full enlightenment. Yay enlightenment. But it can also lead to more relatively profound qualities such as clarity, humor, sweetness, efficiency, love, understanding…the list is endless. As humans, speech is one of our gifts to planet earth and to each other.

How often do we consider the power and possibility of speech? Before today’s practice, I invite you to do so, beginning with the Buddha’s four most important qualifiers for Wrong Speech. Don’t do these things (or do their opposites) and you will enter the vast and beautiful world of language as a path.

Love, Susan


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  • Posted by:  Kailey Brennan

    I really appreciate this meditation video and the discussion on Right Speech.

    I think that as an extension of sitting more regularly, I am starting to become more aware of the power of my words and their impact on other people. Seeing the Sakyong Mipham a couple of weeks ago in Denver also really got me to really start thinking about Right Speech. For whatever reason, it’s on my radar in a way it never was before.

    Probably because I really couldn’t hear it until now. I’m not particularly mindful of my speech. For some reason, I have always associated it with being inhibited or shut down, or that I’m going to start speaking in this very contrived and disingenuous manner. Lots of things tend to fly out of my mouth. It’s like I use my mouth as this very cathartic outlet, and sometimes what comes out is very aggressive, inconsiderate, and damaging to other people.

    Thinking about speech as a powerful conduit for gentleness and compassion helps me to get over some of my self-absorbed rumination that I’m going to be somehow neutered by practicing Right Speech. It is a very powerful channel. The more I sit, the more I see this. My eyes are open in a way that they haven’t been before. Maybe it just comes with maturity? Ultimately, I do not want to cause harm. Maybe that is the best place to start. And becoming aware of when I’m lying, slandering, using abusive speech, and gossiping is a good place to start. I only need to drive through rush hour traffic any given day in Denver to find an opportunity to practice!

  • Posted by:  J'aime

    I love it when the cats visit (and then I remember to let go of thoughts about the cats. LOL)

  • Posted by:  Donna Harel Kirschner

    Thank you so much for this beautiful teaching, Susan.
    I’m quickly becoming a JewBu.
    I’ve been practicing a spiritual ethical practice called Mussar for a number of years. It seeks to cultivate A disciplined practice around a series of “Middot” or character traits. The purpose is to build compassion and care for our world through our relationship with others. Given that the Mussar tradition developed in Eastern Europe , the middot are oddly and historically connected to Benjamin Franklin’s “virtues“ .
    One of the essential middot is “Shtikah” or “Mindful speech”. The teachings you offer today are quite similar and I appreciate finding contemplative routes in to the practices of Right Speech and “Shtikah” at the same time. One of our teachers offered the idea of “WAIT” to ask oneself before speaking : “Why Am I Talking?” It helps me to bring a little mindfulness to my speech. But your teachings here and the idea of bringing breath and mindfulness to be in breath and letting it go or a beautiful way to think of a hammock that swings before the WAIT question. So thank you very very much!

    Also, I’m quite grateful for how you were teaching meditation here in general so many blessings to you and your work.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you so much for this interesting and kind response!

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