Words Matter

Words matter.

How you say what you say matters.

C. S., Lewis said, “Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”

In Sanskrit if you change the pronunciation of a word, by slightly adjusting where in your mouth you create the sound or swap a long vowel for a short vowel, you are probably using a completely different word.  Different word. Different meaning.  For instance: Dharma means the teachings, reality, truth. However, dhārma (long ā) is justice.  Darma similar sound, when said by Americans but with no “h”…means destroyer or demolisher.  Big difference. Truth to destruction in one letter.  Don’t drop the “h”.

How you say what you say matters.  Because words properly pronounced with intention behind them can change the world.

You can’t just string together peaceful cosmic words and create a difference in the world.

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

Buddha was not really referring to the pronunciation but in part the articulation of a manifestation rather than a simple recitation.

We love words that sound loving, so we use them and fully miss the meanings that come from the impact they could have when they are truly set in motion by intention.

We say them only; but they are not full of the life they need to be catalysts or reporters of transformation or seeds of creation.

We say them without any intention or maybe we just skip the actions.

We memorize and reiterate easy combinations of language to decorate our palate and don’t bite down on anything hard or uncomfortable but maybe necessary.

We push away what feels unsavory and fill in with delightful fonts and artistic turns of phrase.

We hide behind pre-designed imprints from an urban dictionary or the latest decorative app.

In what I do, I read and hear so much wordplay and verbal nonsense about trust and love and joy and awareness and mindfulness and oh my goodness, the poor overused word community!

I just do not see the commitment to any of it.  I want to see it.  I want to be in community that swells with and overflows the meaning of the word.

I see instead sometimes, just strings of words that have become syllables but not living things. that blossom to full potential.

We need to stand for the words. We need to stand with them on some foundation to earn the right to use some of these sacred refrains; earn the full sense of what was intended when the word was uttered into being.

It is a responsibility to invoke community.

I also worry about the often repeated word “peace”.  It is on tee shirts and billboards but doesn’t live around us.

I can’t even write it sometimes.

My thumbs pause and the my heart skips and I worry that it is just lip service to such an enormous hope and prayer.  I want to open up the gift of the word and unwrap the full potential of it, the honor of it;

so that I can share the incredible blessing that peace is.

I know how easy it is to post and repost and tweet and retweet and insta this or snap that.

I call us out.

I call us all on our  recycled artisanal kumbucha drenched “journeys” for personal growth that are dripping with language like delicate glass ornaments, dangling and beautiful but easy to shatter.

I call us to come out from behind the photos and the posts and the lovely fonts and the repeated and stolen phrases and the latest apps to beautify moments that may already have been beautiful in their original honesty or were not anything at all but rigged pretense set up on a 10 second timer that we stamped a slogan to.

I suggest we look to excavate for meaning’s potential as if it were our own potential.

Look to the Dharma.

I say we deeply embed the words with the actions that give them life and honesty and season them with full on gratitude.  Gratitude that we have thumbs attached to small complex smart gizmos that we use to record what is trivial, but is also available to record and share what is sacred and sublime.

I challenge us to earn the words.

Pythagoras said, “Silence is better than unmeaning words.”

We can stand for their active manifest meaning when we feel deeply moved and raise our fists over the sentiments we cannot stand for.  We should also not dismiss words as “mere” utterances.  I acknowledge the power of repetition even for its own sake.  It appears particularly vigorous when a negative or hateful utterance is repeated.  But, let’s begin with empty phrases that are meant to be flush with heart.

Step in front of your smart phones or come out from behind the endless thumbs ups and emojis; challenge each other to not just share words but to do and be something beautiful and important and not just a little bit difficult.  Then have at it… share that.

In this way the words are given meaning as they refer back to the truth of the matter.  They are given the life they had when they were designed to represent an idea, expressed by a mouth and heard by a heart for the purpose of communicating peace or community.

I stop myself and ask what am I saying and does it correlate to what I am doing to honor the words themselves?

I watch the instagram world and I really want to comment sometimes, but that’s too easy.

I will just start here by remembering to keep the “h” in Dharma.

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Moving Meditation

In order to have peace and joy, you must succeed in having peace within each of your steps. Your steps are the most important thing.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Basic Approach to a Straight Path Walking Meditation

To begin a walking meditation, first simply stand. Just stand on one spot.  Be still in your body and in your standing be aware of the weight pressing through the soles of your feet into the earth. Tune into all of the subtle movements that we naturally undertake to stay upright. It is not necessary to take a mudra, but it does help create the distinction between just strolling and an intentional experience.  Curl the thumb of your left hand in and wrap your fingers around it. Place it just above your belly button and wrap your right hand around it.  Slip the right thumb to rest in the space formed between your left thumb and index finger. This creates a point of purchase to land your stray energy and helps to set up the sensation of being in balance and stable.  As an added benefit this will keep your arms from swinging which can either be a rhythmic focus or a complete distraction.

For this type of walking meditation, choose a straight path of about 30 feet long. On this path you will walk back and forth between two specific points.  This allows you to let go of the call of your fit bit(keep it on, don’t check it).  Mostly let go of needing to get somewhere.

You can practice barefoot, or wearing your comfy shoes. Stand upright, with your eyes cast down about a two yards ahead and use a soft gaze, maha drishti,  that is not the feel of looking at anything in particular. On your very simple course your gait does not need to be careful to avoid obstacles and your peripheral vision can tighten in because you only need to put one foot in front of the other.

 

Taking it up a notch to a Hiking Meditation

You may choose the path of a challenging hike to create a state of meditation.  Be completely aware as you walk of the process of walking.  Keep your attention on the soles of the feet, and all the sensations originating there as they arise and then as you move on, so do they.  Let feelings come up from the foot, through the length of the leg over the hips to the heart. As you move forward, move through them and then past them.  Feel the muscles in your legs and feet tense flex as you lift the leg.  Encourage a deep visceral experience of rising through the body and passing on and through each emotional response.

This begins to create a rhythm of experiencing sensation as transitive and ephemeral and correlating this to emotion helps to develop the bodily awareness that sensation and the corresponding emotional responses are things that you can pass into and then through as you move on. In the rhythmic hike note that as the foot comes up there is a moment that is distinct from the moment it comes down. When it comes down again into contact with the path, it is a new moment and maybe a new opportunity for sensation to trigger emotion so feel it and then feel it pass.   You can change your pace but notice it and stay within a speed range that lets you stay connected to the experience.

Stop if you feel like it. Stand still or sit down. But, be clear about the moment you are ready to come to the end.  The finish should feel like a natural moment of conclusion.  You’re not freezing on the spot; you’re just allowing yourself to come to a stop. Experience yourself standing. Just notice what it’s like to no longer be in motion; just standing on the earth in a new place to close the practice in stillness.

Remember

If something catches your eye while hiking or walking and you just can’t let go of it; stop and look.  Make it a looking meditation. When you feel finished, continue walking. If you find that you’re getting drowsy or distracted, you can use a mantra and repeat it in your head on the whisper of breath in and out. Increase the speed of repetition if the mind insists on wandering or try walking faster.

Ruah

Drishtis

We refer to specific focused gazing points as Drishtis.  In the discipline of yoga, these points are to call your attention and direct the energy lines of your pose but also to help you firmly reject the calls that are coming in from the rest of your life.  It is important to reflect on the instruction to adhere to very well defined focal points.  This creates repercussions in the turn of the head, the release of the neck, the direction of the energy lines and importantly what you think about.  It is not to push your other thoughts away, but rather to choose what you attend to and what is just outside your peripheral vision.  The suggestion comes from the eyes but is for the benefit of the mind.

You may find your gaze on the practitioner next to you or at your unmanaged pedicure, but the benefit of a soft single pointed gaze is found not in your capacity to analyze what is in your view.  It is really to use the nature of narrowing your attention to expand the space around the concrete distractions of living a life.  Drishti also refers to your point of view or your cache of wisdom.  There are specific instructions for each asana(pose) as to where to take your gaze, but I like to remember that the life-asana you live in can have your unique drishti.  This refers to how you focus your time and attention as the options and distractions grow out of proportion to your capacity to be all-discerning.  It is true as you tune into one thing, something else falls out of view.  Akin to ripe fruit falling from a tree; if not attended to in time it may fall and become rotten or snatched by another.  Maybe it wasn’t your fruit anyway.  Maybe someone else needed it more.  We need, despite the frustration of it, to learn to focus our attention so that we can have enough of it to make any particular experience meaningful.  To overdue the metaphor, we can look at a tree full of ripe fruit and it is beautiful in its entirety but to benefit from the fruit of it, you need to pick a piece that is ripe for you.  Then the rest is not wasted to you, but is just not for you.

To incorporate that idea in an understanding of the traditional use of the 9 Drishtis of Ashtanga, is to embrace pratyahara, turning inward for self-exploration.  Choosing wisely and choosing certainly without regret.  Among many of the seeming contradictions in yoga is the idea that fixing on a specific outward gaze assists in the practice of turning inward.

The most revered Drishti is to gaze upward to the sky off into the infinite, but throughout history, critical epiphanies and shark tank winners have come from staring directly at the navel for indefinite periods of time.  Take this at face value.

Ruah

Bodhisattvas

In Mahayana Buddhism, bodhisattva is the Sanskrit term for anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated bodhicitta, which is a spontaneous wish to attain buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.

he word “bodhisattva” is a compound word formed from bodhi(spiritual awakening, enlightenment) and sattva (a being, essence, spirit).

The word can then be translated as “A being set upon enlightenment,” “One whose essence is perfect knowledge,”

This is my favorite translation of the four vows by Thich Nhat Hanh:

However innumerable beings are, I vow to meet them with kindness and interest.
However inexhaustible the states of suffering are, I vow to touch them with patience and love.
However immeasurable the Dharmas are, I vow to explore them deeply.
However incomparable the mystery of being together, I vow to surrender to it freely.

This is a beautiful translation of what a Bodhisattva is and I hope it helps you to understand this beautiful sentiment:

May I be a guard for those who are protector-less,

A guide for those who journey on the road;

For those who wish to go across the water,

May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.

May I be an isle for those who yearn for landfall,

And a lamp for those who long for light;

For those who need a resting place, a bed

May I be the wishing jewel, the vase of plenty,

A word of power, and the supreme remedy.

May I be the trees of miracles,

And for every being, the abundant cow.

Like the great earth and the other elements,

Enduring as the sky itself endures,

For the boundless multitude of living beings,

May I be the ground and vessel of their life.

Thus, for every single thing that lives,

In number like the boundless reaches of the sky,

May I be their sustenance and nourishment

Until they pass beyond the bounds of suffering

Breathe

A good time to practice breathing. Baby, it’s cold outside…. Practicing pranayamas (breathing exercises) helps clear chest congestion, which is a common winter predicament. This can also help boost immunity. The best for the season is Surya Bhedana (Right Nostril Breathing). Kapal Bhati Pranayama (Skull Shining Breathing Technique) also heats up the body.

And if these are unfamiliar sit quietly, close your eyes and listen to the breath you know and count on. That’s enough. That will help your body handle the changing weather and the school system’s indecisiveness about weather closures.

Ruah