Saturday, February 28, 2009



"avoid making noise"

By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach.  ~Winston Churchill

What do all these sentences have in common?:

1."What a nice dress you are wearing!"

2. "I  would never put my child to bed after 9.00"

3. "I'd love to come but I can't I have already arranged to meet friends."

4. "He's tight with money."

5. I'm so glad I went on the saturday - it wouldn't have been the same the day after.

6. I got my degree at Bocconi University.

Well....."translated" the meaning behind the facade of words, (may) indicate something different to what the apparently innocent exclamation is communicating. For example and in order - the meaning behind the above phrases  could be;

1. I would look great in your dress!!!

2. I am a better mother than she is. 

3.I don't want to meet up with you.

4.I'm a generous person, I want you to like me. 

5. I am always right. I always make the right decisions.

6. I'm clever and important and probably smarter than you are. 

Your homework this week is to observe yourself speaking. This in itself is quite some task. You have to consciously introduce a nanosecond of time (before, during or even after)  which will give you enough "space" in which to take note. Once you have managed to take a step back and observe what actually comes out of your mouth, try to find the "hidden" meaning behind what you are saying. What is it exactly that you are trying to communicate? Why are you giving that person a compliment? (do you need approval?) why are you gossiping about your colleague? (are you hoping that by putting him in a bad light, you will shine brighter?). Once you find that there are certain "manipulative" verbal mechanisms you use  try to think if there is a way of re-phrasing the statement so that what you are  communicating is true (but not hurtful)  - ie. "I'm sorry but I'd prefer not to come out tonight" - rather than a "Look-Good Lie".  If the phrase is possibly hurtful (gossiping) think if the phrase is "disposable". Can you do without it? What will happen if you refrain from speaking badly about your colleague? (Well... for one people will start to trust you). How much of what you say during the day is a "silence filler"? How much of what you say is a way of gleaning praise or sympathy from someone? Focus your attention on the "hidden message" behind your speech and your tone of voice.

Don't speak unless you can improve on the silence.  ~Spanish Proverb

One of the most wonderful memories I have of doing a summer yoga course in Tuscany with my yoga instructor Beatrice Calcagano  was when we did a day of silence. Once you stay close to people in complete silence your realize how often speaking is used as a support, a kind of verbal security blanket.  Take it away and at first it's a bit scary but then if feels calming, surprisingly  natural and for me at least, incredibly liberating. At least for 24 hours it did!

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.  ~Dorothy Nevill

For a week you could try to use the following as a rule for how you speak;

“If you know anything that is hurtful or untrue, do not say it.

If you know anything that is helpful but untrue, do not say it.                                                          If you know anything that is hurtful but true, do not say it.                                                              If you know anything that is helpful and true, find the right time to say it.”  Buddha 

In yogic terms this homework subject coincides with one of the ten "yoga commandments" -which include five "yama" (Do's) and five Niyama ("don'ts) according to Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (A foundational text of yoga, a work of indian philosophy and practice written in the 2nd century BCE) . One of the five "Yama" is called "Satya" which means "truth in word and thought" or "truthfulness". The above "homework" invites you to experiment with "satya". 

In Buddhist terms this homework corresponds  with one of the eight precepts " right speech" - refraining from hurtful or false speech. However it is not necessary to be sympathetic neither to Buddhism nor yogic philosophy to benefit from implementing, or trying to, the above.

I have just broken this "precept" and publically appologize to Nick.

Keep your words soft and tender because tomorrow you may have to eat them.  ~Author unknown


Andrea Villa said...

Un giorno ho provato a coccolare un gatto dicendogli semplicemente cose orribili (gli stavo elencando tutti i modi in cui avrei potuto "cucinarlo") con un tono di voce pacificamente materno, caldo e lento. Ebbene è rimasto sulle mie gambe, accoccolato a lasciarsi blandire per tutto il tempo che è durato il mio "trattamento". Non era tanto la parola ad attrarre il gatto quanto il suono. In effetti sembrerebbe più il suono ad avere il valore di atto creativo che non la parola che tradisce la sua origine tardo antica (diversa da "verbum") che la fa significare più propriamente "somiglianza": la parola così, non sarebbe il "vero", il "reale" ma qualcosa che gli assomiglia. La maggiore o minore aderenza alla verità è probabilmente lasciata all'intesa tra i soggetti che parlano e che si ascoltano e, forse, proprio al suono con cui si emettono le parole. E il suono viaggia nell'aria, il respiro.

Tess Privett said...

I'm not sure I've understood everything, but anyway....

I too think that the tone of your voice has just as much weight as the words uttered. And not only; eye contact (or lack of) too sends a very clear message, even though it may not "match up" with what is being said.
Someone once suggested smiling when you talk down the phone as it completely changes the "sound" of what you are saying...into something positive.'s interesting to note all these aspects and try to desipher not ony what others are "communicating" to you but exactly what YOU are trying to get across to others. And as you say Andrea, your words may not necessarily match up with the message being sent.

Tess Privett said...

Forgot...I liked this idea that it is the sound (of your words) that holds power and is an indicator of "truth" and wonder if it's due to this that OM or other mantra have such a...strong and sometimes medicinal effect.

Andrea Villa said...

What I'm trying to get across the others?
E' una domanda a cui proprio non saprei rispondere.
So solo che sono qui, non proprio casualmente, pure da un bel po' di tempo e che sto provando ad conoscermi. Per quello che riguarda gli altri, ci sono alcuni che mi aiutano (in questo caso sono un po' un nomade, prendo quel che mi capita quando mi capita) ed alcun altri (pochi) che mi interessa che mi aiutino (in questo caso sono un po' contadino: coltivo, semino, raccolgo ...).
In entrambi i casi non scarto nulla di quanto mi si offre: semplicemente cerco di ben valutare la fonte.
E' per questo che cerco di affinare ogni mio senso: per raccogliere il più possibile, attirato dal suono o dal profumo o dal gusto o dal tatto o dalla vista lasciando che io assorba come spugna fin dentro ogni mia fibra. E' un po' come quando assaggi un boccone cucinato con i più vari ingredienti, pure nascosti e che frantumi per indovinarne la composizione e l'effetto della combinazione degli elementi.
Mi rendo conto che può essere una visione un po' egocentrica della vita ma se "fatti fummo per seguir virtute e canoscenza" io non posso che usare i mezzi che ho a disposizione e che dre se ... mi hanno disegnato così.