My alma mater, San Francisco State, has a fun, upper division unit area called Segment 3 that requires students to take classes from a subject area outside of their major. When most people chose Human Sexuality, I decided that what I wanted more than anything was to learn about Judaism. I grew up Catholic and realized that I knew very little about what it is to be Jewish, but I wanted to find out. This curiosity led me to read some incredibly beautiful literature, to cry every week with Laurel in Holocaust and Genocide class, to spend a summer attempting to learn Hebrew, and to fall head over heels with The Word. I've been writing for fun since I learned how to form letters, but I never realized how magic words are until I was reading the Torah in my Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism class. God spoke and the words formed existence! That is some serious stuff.
That same semester I started performing the poetry I had been writing. I was in theatre for a dozen or so years routinely performing other people's work, and this was the first time I had ever done so with my own. My palms would get clammy before I went up and I would shake throughout my reading. It was awful and I was unprepared for being so nervous after years of other nerve-free performances. I kept doing it, though, because they were weighty words and there was something so (en)lightening about having other people bear witness. I began to let my words out and immediately eat them, weaving the expression into my very fabric. I became the poetry. I was inspired and affected by my own work and the beautiful words of the poets I kept company with. Although I didn't understand how, we were doing something important that mattered. We were making a ripple with every syllable, even if it was just for each other.
Two years or so later, I received first hand experience with the pure, raw, creative potential and power of The Word. I was introduced to Kundalini yoga and from the first time I tuned in, all the atoms in my body began to vibrate differently. When I realized that I had already been chanting for years ("Our Father, who art in heaven...") I dove head first into mantra, meditation and chanting. I've become addicted to the sound the words make, the shape they take on my lips, the way they all feel differently when I chant them, even when I'm chanting silently. Above all else, I am forever awed by how different it feels in my body when I am done. There is research out there about how meditation and chanting affects the brain and maybe someday I'll read it. For now, the proof is in the vibration.
This past year two of my many learning goals were to "communicate clearly, concisely, compassionately and honestly in all moments" and to "speak only kind words to and about myself." When I made these goals I was about halfway through yoga teacher training, deeply into the naad (essence of all sound) and gaining real consciousness about how important words are. Ironically, in the year that I have been working on expression I developed a thyroid condition, which has only served to deepen my commitment to communicating my truth. While committed, I have struggled with always communicating in an entirely elevated manner. This year I have said things that are unkind, been entirely too verbose when I really needed to be quiet and not always been completely honest. However imperfect, though, this exercise has brought a consciousness to my words that I have never experienced before. I have become more careful and thoughtful about what I say, especially when making promises and giving advice. I know that my words matter. They are heard by the people I encounter and they have the power to make some variety of impact. I can't control how they will be received or interpreted, but I can make a real effort to do no harm when I speak (or write!). This has taken some serious restraint on my part (especially in learning to suppress angry emails) but I am finding that there are so many occasions when it's so much better to say nothing at all. It turns out that silence does speak louder than words.
Lately I've been working on manifesting a very specific vision for my immediate future and doing a lot of chanting to this end. I had no idea how creative my word is, though, until a couple of nights ago. We were listening to internet radio and cooking dinner when a song came on that recalls sad memories for me. I said aloud, "I don't want to hear this song right now." A beat and a half later, our router stopped routing and the song was silenced. I started laughing, almost manically, and then realized with terror how careful I have to be when making requests. I just reread a portion of my teacher training manual about sound and mantra and here's a relevant excerpt...
"We are creating with every word we speak, and even with every word we think. When we chant a mantra we are choosing to invoke the positive power contained in those particular syllables. Whether it's for prosperity, peace of mind, increasing intuition...simply by chanting them we are setting vibrations in motion that shall have an effect."
We can argue that my router experience was possibly a coincidence- I am not narcissistic enough to think I can take down the internet with my Jedi powers. However this does raise valid points about expression. This year I have managed to eradicate almost all of my negative self-talk and it's made an enormous difference in my confidence and self-worth. Our reality, the way we view life, is formed entirely by our words and thoughts, and when we are thinking and speaking kindly, honestly and respectfully it creates a kinder, gentler reality.
We are important and our words carry weight and significance. It's not just about how we speak to and about ourselves and the people around us, though. We must be especially thoughtful when making promises. When we say things we don't mean or make promises we can't/won't keep, our word begins to lose its value. We may initially have to disappoint someone by telling them something they don't want to hear, but the disappointment is so much less so than it would be later. This is the basis of true integrity- our words and actions match up and there is no question that we mean what we say.
In the new year I will continue to work on making my word compassionate and impeccable. If you solicit my opinion, you can trust that it will be honest, and if I make a commitment to you, you can trust that I will follow through. It may not seem like much, but you'll thank me for it later.