Day 11
We practice how to speak without defilements

Spirit Rock Meditation Center Retreat, April 25-May 9, 2015

Translation from Burmese by Ma Thet and transcription and editing by Douglas McGill

Know both the objects and the meditating mind.

Notice what's happening in the mind, the workings of the mind. That's enough. If you are seeing it, it's enough.

When the mind is finding things interesting it means wisdom is already at work. When investigation happens you are not just thinking about things, you are being aware. Questions are asked to give some impetus, some power to the observation, some sense of purpose. But if there is already a strong sense of knowing and being in touch with your experience there is no need to ask questions.

When mindfulness is truly continuous, investigation is already a part of the process. Because the mindfulness is continuous the mindfulness will already have seen something that was brought to your attention, will already have noticed something that happened before, during and after.

It's important for the mind to be ready, to be alert and awake, continuously mindful.

It is also important to be relaxed which means the mind is not straining or striving because of greed.

The nature of the mind and the body, nama rupa, our view of them is to see their qualities, not to associate them with people, me, them or anyone. Just qualities.

When the mindfulness has gained momentum, sometimes see what happens when you stop trying to be aware. If there is momentum you will see the momentum carries the awareness forward still. The awareness is being aware of its own (sic), when there is momentum.

We tend to think of intention as "me." We tend to think of putting in energy as "my effort," "I am trying." But effort is not you, effort is a quality of the mind at work.

When you are doing something you can be aware you that you are doing something. So awareness and work can happen at the same time. Living with awareness means sitting with awareness, standing with awareness, going with awareness, working with awareness, while you are doing what you are doing. Don't let the awareness be forgotten.

You will still speak and think and do, but we need to practice to bring mindfulness into all these activities. To not let it be forgotten whether we are walking or sitting. Will the mind be in the same state? Will the same things be important for the mind?

When we are walking, the walking itself is happening, we don't need to be too concerned about that. We need to be concerned about how to be aware. The awareness is important whether we are doing work, or eating or drinking or whatever. How we are being aware, whether we are being aware, that's important to look out for.

If we think something is important, our mind's attention will be more with that. Thinking that something is important, our assumptions about it, we don't even realize we have assumptions about it, that's delusion. Understanding that something is important, that's wisdom.

When there is mindfulness, because we see what's happening we can learn from it and choose what adjustments need to be made. Most of you will have developed quite a bit of momentum, the practice must feel quite established to some degree. So from today, let’s experiment with training at talking while being aware.

This is important in our lives because we need to communicate. With no mindfulness we are not skillful in our speech. Right Speech is a component of the Noble Eightfold Path. When we say the wrong things it brings a lot of agitation to the mind. When we say things we shouldn't have said, and the converse, when we don't say the things that we should say, there is agitation.

To recognize this and learn from it, mindfulness must be present.

When we speak, try to be mindful and aware. Slowly we will learn. Learning is the wisdom, one of the wisdoms. When we speak too much, we are left agitated. When we don't say enough, we are left agitated. We need to know what is enough, what is necessary.

It's interesting to be mindful when we are speaking. So often we notice speech is happening with no sense of what is enough, we’re just freewheeling, speech pops up and keeps going.

So to be mindful when we are talking we need to already have momentum before we being talking. Then before we begin we can know what we want to say, how we feel. Then when we start speaking we can know the tone of our voice, what we are thinking of saying, how we feel, and that's not the only thing we can know when we are speaking.

If we have a strong desire to convey something, there is eagerness, there is a great desire to speak out, then we can get carried away by that thought and that speech. We need to be careful of that energy, watch it.

Why is it difficult to be mindful when we speak, or to continue to be mindful when we speak? It's because so many things are happening so quickly when we speak. We think about what to say, we have ideas feeding our feelings and our thoughts, and we are paying attention to the person we are speaking to.

These are all in the mix and it takes a lot of skill to just be and know whatever you know and not to get lost in all of that, and sucked into that process.

We tend also to pay a lot of attention to the person we are speaking to, instead of to ourselves. If we put too much attention in one place it will be taken away from another. If you put too much attention in the other person then there is not enough attention to yourself. So we need to build this skill of how we can speak and know that we are speaking and how we are speaking. That's possible if we are relaxed and not in a hurry to speak or convey.

There is something called force of habit, of circumstance or context. So if you are very diligent about being mindful every time you walk, every time you make a step, every time your feet moved, if you are very diligent about being mindful of that, you will find that every time you start walking, awareness will pop up because that is what you are diligently trying to cultivate.

In the same way, if we always try to set up the intention to be mindful when we speak and we make the effort to be mindful again and again, eventually it comes to the point that when we speak, mindfulness is there.

Here on retreat we don't need to speak all day long. We don't want to lose the momentum of mindfulness if we are not skillful at being mindful of something we are doing, like talking. So although you can speak at any time of day, let’s not speak for a long period of time any time we speak. So limit yourself to short little conversations, just to check in and to practice being mindful when you speak. Very short.

This is for training. This is to build habit. You are on retreat so there is no need to jump into conversation. Take it easy and slow. When you choose to speak with someone, both of you know your purpose so you can slow down, know what you want to say, know when you are speaking, take turns. If you speak about the dhamma and your practice, that also keeps you on practice, in the moment.

If you start speaking about yourself, be extra vigilant because we are most likely to get carried away when we speak about ourselves. The Buddha has said in the Satipattana Sutta that when you are silent, know that you are silent, and when you are speaking, know that you are speaking. We need to put this into practice.

If there is mindfulness throughout the time you are speaking, you will find that you feel good after that. And if you are mindful every time you speak, you will feel more confident and sure about yourself. Even if you make a mistake in speech, you will know it and learn a lesson from that immediately and decide how to do it next time, so that you are prepared.

If there is a lot of reaction in the mind, the mind is very agitated, it is better to not speak and just watch the agitation and the reaction and calm yourself down first. Because if we speak while we are reacting, the tendency is to just shoot our mouth off. So we are practicing how to speak only without defilement. That takes vigilance, wisdom, willingness. All this we will learn.

You can speak with metta, with karuna. It’s not ideal to speak under the influence of the kilesas, under the influence of unwholesome minds.

So now is the chance on retreat to take it slow and see how it goes, so you get a taste and feel for doing it a measured pace. Then you can take that practice back with you into your lives.

We come on retreat to learn how to practice, how to meditate, how to be mindful. But the real place to put it into action, the real place that is useful and has benefit, is in our daily lives.