“Saying nothing… sometimes says the most.” – Emily Dickinson
So many times we talk just for the sake of talking; to fill awkward silence or to seem sociable, knowledgeable and engaged. But what if we were to just STOP TALKING?
There are many teachings, in many traditions about speaking or not speaking. Remember the good old rule of thumb from childhood, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” (Because most people forget about that one). Or how about the Dalai Lama’s quote, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen you may learn something new.”
If you read last month’s column on “The Art of Sucking; How to be the BEST Beginner Possible”, you are familiar with my observations that people do not want to be beginners. We do not want to “not know” about a topic (even if we really have absolutely no clue). We always want to seem like we know what’s up. The topic of excessive talking is highly related to that. But it does go deeper.
Because we do not want to seem incompetent or “stupid.” We would rather be insincere and talk when really we should listen. Most of us do not even know that we are doing it, so it is not a purposeful insincerity. Rather, it is a lack of self study.
Self study is a practice in Yoga called Svadhyaya (pronounced Svahd-he-yah-yah, super fun to say). Svadhyaya is the fourth Niyama of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The practice of self study has the potential to engage us in our highest purposes and live our most authentic lives. Authenticity, though, does mean that we must be aware of who we are, what we are doing, why we are doing it and owning it.
Bruce Lee said “To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person.”
There are many who believe that after a certain age you just stop learning or can not learn about yourself (the old “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” bit). WRONG. The deeper truth, is that we usually just stop wanting, believing or TRYING to learn and therefore we stop.
My challenge for you is this: When you choose to speak, consider these three questions before you do:
Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
These questions are considered “gates” that your words must pass through before entering the world outside of yourself. Various versions can be found in Buddhist teachings and elsewhere if you simply search “3 Gates.” But you may have seen it show up as a Rumi quote. Try this out for an hour, a day, or even a whole week and see what comes up. Write it down in a journal and reflect. This is a beautiful and simple way to begin or continue a Svadhyaya practice. Happy gatekeeping!
Welcome to Live Free or Die, a monthly column on LIVING rather than just being ALIVE.