In these times it appears that everyone has found a way to let their voice be heard, whether it be in person or in the virtual world. There is a platform for all personality types both outspoken and introverted. The danger in this is that some may disregard the fact that words have consequences. Once something has been spoken it cannot be taken back. Even in the anonymity of the online world, words carry weight and if delivered under the cloak of obscurity can cause real and lasting damage. How does one follow the mystical path, speaking their truth without causing pain in the process?
“Where the philosopher guesses and argues, the mystic lives and looks; and speaks, consequently, the disconcerting language of first-hand experience, not the neat dialectic of the schools.”
― Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness
When having discovered a truth that has taken much sacrifice and work to uncover, the need to shout it from the mountain tops is so great that it takes enormous self-control not to. I do not believe this comes from the ego, but rather, the now unbridled soul wants to be set free. I have many lessons still to learn, but I sometimes find it difficult not to interject my “opinion” when given the opportunity during open discussion. I believe this is my soul wanted so very much to assist the person I am communicating with, giving them some insight into what I have learned along the way. The problem is that many people do not want, or are not ready to hear the truth. They are not speaking with me in an open dialogue but instead are vocalizing their thought process. In these moments, my practice becomes most important. I must resist the urge to comment and choose to love that person in the moment, even if what they are spewing is full of hate.
Many of you may have experienced this at work. Office politics never cease to amaze me. The depths of the human condition are on full display. The gossip and “talking down” of colleagues is often rampant. Instead of the anonymity of an online environment, there is the secrecy of the water cooler or lunch room. It can be quite toxic and treacherous territory for a student of mysticism. Often the person speaking their truth, loudly and aggressively, has some unfinished business. Maybe they were constantly criticized as a child and now choose to debate every point with anyone who will take the bait. Maybe they were labeled “slow” or “not intelligent” by a loved one and this label has stuck to their psyche, a thorn they have not yet figured out how to remove. The possibilities are endless but the correct response is not. In moments when someone is trying to speak their truth with a poison tongue, I try to redirect the conversation by softening the dialog. I will often find a topic that speaks more directly to the authentic person in front of me. Maybe they like to garden, or bake or have a large loving family, each person has a true self that they may be hiding at work. This tactic is usually enough to stop the tide of vitriol and bring back some balance.
For lack of attention a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.
I am not immune to this as no one is. If I find myself in a conversation in which I am thinking to much about my response rather than listening, I take a breath and sit quietly for a few moments. Is what I have to say kind? Is it necessary? Am I just dumping my personal truths on someone else that is not in a position to receive? Of course I fall short time and time again, but it is in the constant return to pray and love that I hope to do better the next time.
Every minute you are thinking of evil, you might have been thinking of good instead. Refuse to pander to a morbid interest in your own misdeeds. Pick yourself up, be sorry, shake yourself, and go on again.
Each time I speak, I am making a choice to use words in a manner that is conducive to love rather than hate. Even if I am compelled to speak my truth, it must be in a loving and inclusive way. After all, this life is so very short, that as Evelyn Underhill so eloquently puts, gossiping and speaking poorly of others is a complete waste of time. I have taken to walking away from situations in which people cannot yet let go of their opinions and beliefs long enough to simply listen to another. When my time comes to leave this world I want to have used every available moment to learn new truths. If I am frozen in a conversation that is constantly on repeat, I am not helping the participant or myself in the slightest.
Sometimes the lesson may just be to sit quietly and allow the other to speak, completely draining themselves of the hurtful and angry energy. These prove to be the most difficult for me and I suspect very important for my spiritual growth. As I slowly become more confident and tentatively step into the role of teacher, I will most probably continue to be tested and challenged with my words. It is a big responsibility that I am grateful for the opportunity to master.