Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Speaking Yoga

"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” – Buddha

The word yoga is often translated as "union." Literally, it means "to yoke," and metaphorically, this has come to mean union. Words are one way to bring union among people. Words are how we communicate, how we interact with other people. But what good do they do if they are not used to bring us peace amongst each other? How do they create this union? Words can be scathing, hollow, or positive, but they always affect the listener. We must be conscious not only of how we think our words will be heard but of how the listener will actually hear them.

Lawyers like to talk. A lot. In fact, most people like to talk. For some reason, people feel the need to make noise and fill the emptiness that is silence. But how many of the words we speak are hollow words? How often do we speak only to hear the sound of our own voice? How many of the words we speak do not bring peace to others or ourselves? How often do our words create dis-union rather than union?

What if we made a commitment to using our words for the benefit of others? What if we consciously used our words to bring peace to others and ourselves? What if we used our words to create the union of yoga? A conscious effort to have our words bring peace is a conscious effort to consider how others may hear our words. Making the commitment is a step toward empathy and compassion. We want to bring peace, and we are conscious of how best to do it.

The first, and I believe most important, step is to meet people where they are. This is definitely a lesson I have learned from yoga. In discussions about trauma-informed yoga classes, teachers must be conscious that while for some people, “lie down and relax” is a stress-relieving statement, for someone who has been held down by someone, it can trigger a trauma response. Understanding where people are, and how they view the world, helps us choose our words carefully so as not to cause them harm we do not mean.

Second, we can ask ourselves what people may want or need to hear to bring them peace in this moment. I often think to myself in difficult situations that there are simply no words that can express what it is I want to say. But sometimes a simple acknowledgement that we care is enough to bring a moment of peace. We need not come up with a tome of how we feel about a particular situation. Instead, a simple word or two, along with our presence, might be sufficient.

Third, and this is one we so often forget, we can ask people what they need. So often, we think we know what other people want and need, especially when we are stressed or worried about saying the right thing. We speak and stumble over our words until we are blue in the face without ever stopping to ask, “what do you need?”

People in helping professions such as lawyers, psychologists, etc., have a tendency to use a lot of words to explain and counsel their clients. Those words may be necessary, but they also often fall on deaf ears. Sometimes people are not ready to hear them. Sometimes they are simply unable to understand. Those words become hollow words, even when we mean them to bring peace. The Buddha is not saying that these hollow words are bad or wrong or improper. But they do not serve the same purpose as one word that might bring peace.

Taking the time to stop and ask ourselves, and the listener as well, what it is that will bring peace in the moment, is a better use of the universe’s energy, and our own. It also forces us into the moment and forces us to create a deeper union with each other. That is how we create yoga. 

How can you bring a sense of union and peace to your words? Can we present a world of empathy and compassion where our words are designed to always bring peace to the listener? How would that world look to you?


© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.

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