Many years ago I had the privilege of studying a text entirely devoted to the prohibitions of the tongue with a well-known Shaykh (Muslim scholar) of the West. While I don’t remember the content of the course in detail, what stayed with me most was the personal transformation I felt after spending an entire semester devoted exclusively to examining the use of my tongue. What I said, when I said it, and what it created in the world. One of my biggest insights at the time was that despite not having any intention to gossip about others, I often found myself in gossiping conversations. I noticed how conversations with others regularly migrated to the topic of other people in our lives and while I wasn’t instigating gossip, I suddenly would find myself participating in gossip by joining in. Observing my tongue gave me insight to see this pattern and pause to develop the personal strength to choose not to participate in gossip and later, I felt empowered enough to stop it when gossiping happened. This change was powerful for me to see how eventually I changed the dynamics of conversations I was having and most of all, how I was feeling. I felt like I was in more integrity with my own Truth and what mattered to me.
It’s said that disciples of the Prophet Mohammed would keep a small rock in their mouth at all times so that every time they spoke they had to mindfully move the rock to speak. While this may seem like an over-the-top practice to us in the modern day, I marveled at this practice when I first learned about it. I imagined what amount of presence I would have if I had to move a rock every single time before I spoke. A mindful pause automatically infused every time before my tongue moved.
What would shift if you paused every single time before you spoke? If you paid attention to the power of your tongue?
While I don’t carry a rock in my mouth, in conversations comfortable and uncomfortable alike I often take moments to pause and close my eyes. This helps me tune in momentarily for a second, or for more, to my center to ensure I’m guided by something Greater than myself. In cases when I feel unmindful, I close my eyes and go to my favorite prayer “May I be in alignment with the Highest Compassion, the Highest Truth. May I be a vessel for All The Best there is. May my life benefit all living beings.” This practice doesn’t mean I’m always in alignment with my integrity, but it always makes me feel more integral with my Truth than if I hadn’t taken a moment to pause.
If you haven’t read the book The Four Agreements, I recommend you hop on Amazon or go to your local library or bookstore today and get it. It is one of these tried and true texts that I try to re-read at least once a year and always recommend to my clients and students. When I first received the text as homework from one of my teachers I saw the same lessons I had learned earlier with the study of prohibitions of the tongue. Central to the text, one of the four agreements that the author Miguel Ruiz suggests we adopt for a joyful life is dedicated entirely to speech: Be impeccable with your word. He emphasizes that our speech has power to bring light or darkness into the world. Black magic is possible when we spread gossip, when we share our fear of other people’s circumstances when they are feeling good, when we criticize another and they adopt this criticism to become a belief about themselves.
The energy with which we speak is infectious.
The idea of black magic reminded me of the moment my freshman English teacher told my parents I would not succeed in college or the world because creative writing was useless and that I needed to learn how to write more professionally. On that very day I started unbelieving I had a gift for writing, something I had been told since elementary school. In fact, my mom recently sent me old elementary school papers from when I was young and every paper said the same thing “My name is Marci and I want to be an author and illustrator when I grow up.” The writer inside of me remained dormant until a few years ago when I started by business and the artist in me is still...in hiding. She’ll get there...
Our throat chakra, the fifth energy center, teaches us that our words have power.
The throat chakra is located between the upper energy centers that help us transcend identification with our ego and connect to Spirit, and our lower energy centers that hold our deepest wounds, sense of identity, family of origin challenges, and basic survival instincts. It helps to metabolize energies from upper and lower chakras, bringing the wisdom of something Greater to our lower chakras and to bring what is left to be healed out from the shadows of our lower chakras.
In essence, the throat chakra asks us to:
Mind our words. Are we speaking too much and not spending enough time listening? Or are we holding back on expressing ourselves?
Speak the Truth.
Notice when we favor the needs of others and not express our own.
Catch ourselves withholding what we know to be true because of fear of making waves, repercussions, or hurting another.
Exercise conscious choice and recognize that we always have choice.
Use the wisdom of our heart center to guide speech under the banner of compassion.
Know that our words shape our reality and those around us.
Do you have regular sore throats? A sense of thirst that is never quenched? Throat tightness when you find yourself in uncomfortable situations? A sense of feeling frozen and unable to say what you mean when confronted by another? Do you struggle to ask for what you need? Or express how you feel? All of these are signs that your throat chakra is out of balance and asking for attention.
The throat chakra is challenging. How much expression is too much and how much is not enough? How do I speak my truth if others get hurt by what I say? I’m here to tell you there is no perfect formula. This is part of walking the path, trial and error, testing and tuning in, finding what our Highest Expression looks like for ourselves. Asking ourselves does this feel in alignment with my Highest Values? My Highest Truth?
If we focused our energy on being more mindful of our speech, I’m confident we’d change 70% of our lives.
For this week’s Joy Tip Wednesday, I’m inviting us to explore the power of expression in the throat chakra. Here’s how to get started:
For one entire day, pay attention to your speech. Create an accountability chart with hours of the day on the left side and what you said on the right side. Take a moment to pause every hour or two, or maybe it’s just three times during the day, whatever feels supportive, to write down what you spoke about. What did you say?
Ask yourself, am I an over-speaker or under-speaker? If you tend to speak a lot, spend an entire day listening more. If you tend to under-speak, spend a day expressing yourself more.
Try on Rumi’s three gates for size every time before you speak. Rumi, one of my all-time favorite mystics taught “Let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself, “is it true?” At the second ask, “Is it necessary?” At the third gate ask “Is it kind?”
It doesn’t feel like it’s an accident that I was scheduled to explore the throat chakra after the horrifying events in Charlottesville this past weekend. Events that represents the power of hateful speech and the impact of staying silent. Ultimately the throat chakra teaches us that our expression is designed for upholding Truth, for the benefit of all living beings, and for spreading light in the world. In these difficult days, I see the teachings of the throat chakra asking us without reservation to speak out against hate and injustice even if it's uncomfortable. If you’re feeling inspired from this week’s practice, I invite you to take this a step further and enter uncomfortable conversations. Talk to a relative or neighbor who may have views that are sympathetic to the white supremacist views that expressed themselves in Charlottesville. Pick up your phone and call your senator and representative and ask them to stand up against this rising hate. Move your feet and join a nonviolent demonstration this weekend. Do something that feels authentic to you to use your expression to spread light, Truth, and integrity.
Let me know how exploring the nature and power of your expression goes. Write me in the comments below what surprised you most, when you turned your attention to the mindful observation of your tongue.