Before we begin speaking, we can know what we want to say, how we feel; and when we start speaking we can know the tone of our voice, what we’re thinking of saying, and how we feel again. And that is not all that we can know when we’re talking.
If you 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. That thought and that speech – we need to be careful of that energy. Watch it first.
Why is it difficult to be mindful when we speak is because so many things are happening so quickly when we speak. We think about what we want to say, we have ideas, our feelings and our thoughts, we pay attention to the person we’re speaking to, and there are views and all in the mix. It takes a lot of skill to just be and know whatever you know and not get lost and sucked into the whole process.
We also tend to pay a lot of attention to the other person we’re speaking to instead of to ourselves. But if we put too much attention on one place, then it will be taken away from another. So, we need to build this skill of how we can speak and know that we’re speaking and how we are speaking. And that is possible if we’re relaxed and not in a hurry to speak, not in a hurry to convey.
There is something called force of habit. So, if you were very diligent about being mindful every time you walk, then you’ll find that when you start walking, your mindfulness will just pop up because that’s what you have been diligently trying to cultivate. In the same way, if we always try to set up the intention to be mindful when we speak again and again, if this is what we’re diligent about, it comes to the point that when we speak mindfulness is there.
Here in retreat we don’t need to speak all day long and you don’t want to lose the momentum of mindfulness if you’re not skilful at speaking. So, although you can speak at any time of the day, do not speak for a long period of time any time you speak. So, limit yourself to short conversations; just to check in and practice being mindful while you speak.
This is for training, to build habit; so, you’re on retreat and there’s no need to jump into natural conversation. Take it easy and slow. Both of you know your purpose; so you can slow down. Know what you want to say, know when you’re speaking, take turns.
And when you speak about the Dhamma, about your practice, that also keeps you in the practice in the moment.
If you start speaking about yourself be extra vigilant because we’re most likely to be carried away when we speak about ourselves.
If there’s mindfulness throughout the time you’re speaking, you’ll find that you feel good after that. And if you’re mindful every time you speak, you’ll find that you feel more and more confident and sure about yourself. Even if you make a mistake in your speech, you’ll know it and you can learn a lesson from it immediately and decide how you won’t want to do it next time; so that you’re prepared.
If there’s a lot of reaction in the mind, your mind is very agitated, it’s better to not speak; watch the agitation and reaction and calm yourself down first because if we speak when we’re reacting, the tendency is to just shoot our mouth off.
So, we’re practising to learn how to only speak without defilements; that takes vigilance. So, wisdom, willingness, all these we will learn. We can speak with metta, with karuna. It’s not ideal to be speaking under the influence of unwholesome minds.
Now it’s the chance on a retreat to take it slow and see how it goes so that you get a taste of doing it at a measured pace, and you can bring that practice with you back into your lives.