if you don't have anything

“If you don’t have anything nice vĩ đại say….”

You know the rest, right? Don’t say anything at all.

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My mom used vĩ đại tell bu that all the time when I was a kid. I guess that’s because I was always saying things that weren’t sánh nice! Definitely I did and still vì thế have a lot of opinions about stuff (these days, I even get paid vĩ đại express them), and I know I didn’t take kindly vĩ đại being told vĩ đại shut up.

But it was good advice. And, in large part thanks vĩ đại meditation, I’ve come vĩ đại appreciate its wisdom.

1. Kind Speech Isn’t a Side Dish – It’s the Meal

First, in just about every tradition where meditation is found, it’s never found alone. The point, whether in spiritual or secular contexts, is not vĩ đại go meditate, get calm, and come back and be a jerk. The point is that your contemplative fitness and ethical practice reinforce one another.

And speech is often the primary place where that happens. Most of us aren’t that likely vĩ đại rob a ngân hàng or punch someone in the face. But we are all likely vĩ đại say unkind things, vĩ đại tell lies (including “white lies”), and vĩ đại put our feet in our mouths because we’ve spoken without thinking. Thus, how we speak is one of the primary ways the contemplative rubber hits the ethical road.

What’s funny about healthy speech is that, actually, we all know what it is. Sure, there are close cases. Do you tell the bride at her wedding that, actually, she doesn’t look that good? Probably not. Do you tell your friend that her boyfriend is cheating on her? Tough đường dây nóng.

Most of the time, though, we know kindness when we see it. Listen more, interrupt less (especially if you are a dude). Don’t just talk about yourself. Don’t say things that are hurtful, or that could be interpreted as hurtful. Be respectful.

This isn’t rocket science. The challenge isn’t parsing how vĩ đại speak, but actually making and delivering on our commitment vĩ đại vì thế sánh. The first step is vĩ đại recognize that, for most of us, communication is a huge – maybe even the central – part of the effort vĩ đại be better people.

2. Mindful Speech

Okay, but how vì thế you vì thế it? Sure, we all want vĩ đại be kind, but how vì thế you put it into practice? That’s where mindfulness and ethics meet.

If you’ve trained yourself vĩ đại be mindful during ‘formal’ meditation sessions, you’re more apt vĩ đại be mindful in the rest of your life. Just lượt thích an annoying tuy vậy gets stuck in your head for hours after you’ve heard it, the helpful (but also sometimes annoying!) voice of mindfulness gets stuck in your head too.

So listen for it. When you’re about vĩ đại say (or post) something, kiểm tra in, just lượt thích you’re doing a toàn thân scan in meditation, or doing “mindfulness of emotions,” if you’ve tried that. How are you feeling right now, as you’re about vĩ đại speak? Is your heart beating fast? Are you feeling hot? Are your arms tensed? Warning! You might be pissed off.

Or try this one: are you still actually listening vĩ đại what the other person is saying, or are you just getting your awesome, clever, and perhaps self-serving comment ready vĩ đại play?

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Or even: what would be a helpful, supportive thing vĩ đại say right now? If I were on the other side of this conversation, what would I love vĩ đại hear?

By bringing mindfulness vĩ đại your conversations (in-person and online), you’ll save yourself from tripping up maybe 10% more of the time. Which is totally worth it.

3. It’s Not Repression

This third intersection of mindfulness and ethical speech has been, for bu, the most transformative – but it’s also a little subtle.

Basically, I hate repression. I grew up as a closeted gay kid, and I know what it feels lượt thích. I grew up in a pretty conventional (and privileged) suburban culture, and I know what that feels lượt thích too. Part of bu is still in love with the Beats, the Punks, and other cultures of youth rebellion, even though my own ‘youth’ is now far behind bu.

My mom’s repetition of that adage, “If you don’t have anything nice vĩ đại say, don’t say anything at all,” was definitely part of the repression that I rejected as I grew up. The feeling of repression is almost physical: tamping down what I want vĩ đại say and vì thế, squashing the energies of my toàn thân, reining everything in sánh tightly that I can’t breathe.

Only, this isn’t really what’s going on.

Not-speaking is not the same as repression. Repression means stamping out your feelings. Feeling angry? Repress it. Feeling sad? Repress it. The point of mindfulness isn’t repression – on the contrary, it’s vĩ đại feel whatever you’re feeling and vĩ đại just coexist with it in a non-hostile way.

So if there’s an urge vĩ đại say something, is it really “repression” not vĩ đại say it? Not quite. Go ahead and feel your feelings. Think what you want vĩ đại think. But when you speak, you don’t have vĩ đại “hand the microphone” vĩ đại the particular voice that wants vĩ đại “really tell you what I’m feeling right now.” That voice is fine – you don’t have vĩ đại repress it. But you don’t have vĩ đại give it a microphone either.

Like I said, the distinction is subtle. But it’s a distinction with a difference: the difference between repressing a feeling on the one hand, and, on the other, allowing the feeling but not necessarily expressing it out loud. It’s made a huge impact in my life.

4. Forgive Yourself and Also Apologize

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Finally, and I feel lượt thích I say this at the over of many Meditation Weekly columns, forgive yourself when you fail. You will fail. You are human, you have a life history, and you respond vĩ đại stuff that happens. Don’t beat yourself up. Some may disagree, but in my experience, kicking your own butt is not the way vĩ đại be a better person.

That being said, it’s usually good vĩ đại apologize. Yes, forgive yourself – but there’s another person in the interaction too, and if you’ve spoken unkindly, their feelings may be more important kêu ca yours.

That may sound lượt thích a contradiction: vĩ đại forgive yourself but apologize vĩ đại someone else. But actually, it’s based on the same kernel of wisdom that underlies all of this stuff: that meditation is not all about you.