Many of us when we speak try to say too much too quickly. Sometimes we try to say as much as we can before we are interrupted. At other times we just get carried away in expressing our thoughts or feelings. In doing so we often find ourselves still speaking when we simply don’t have enough breath left to support our voice. When this happens we quickly find ourselves grasping (or even gasping) for air. This grasping creates tensions in our diaphragm, chest, back, belly, and so on, and not only undermines our breathing but also our communication. A voice deprived of the power of the breath does not carry the harmonic nuances and subtleties that are such an important part of the spoken word. Such a voice is no longer connected with the silence that gives words meaning and scale.
Next time you find yourself in a discussion or giving a speech, take your time as you speak. If you sense that you are about to run out of breath, simply stop what you are saying and let yourself breathe for a breath or two, paying attention to the silent pause at the end of your out-breath. Then simply continue on. These pauses are not only good for your breathing, they are also good for your soul. They give you an opportunity to see if what you are saying is worth saying and what you really wish to say.
It is important to realize that the very same same principles generally apply when you are writing articles, books, e-mail messages, discussion posts, and so on. As you think to yourself and write, you can also run out of breath and lose your connection with silence. Long concentration at your computer, typewriter, or note pad can constrict your diaphragm, cause faster breathing, and result in fast upper chest breathing and insufficient oxygen to your brain and body.
Finally, does what you say and write spring from deep within, from silence? Does it help you and others reflect on what is important? Or is it simply a mechanical expression of “like and dislike,” or of self-love or vanity? As you impartially listen to yourself speaking and writing, your words will reconnect with silence and will carry new energy and meaning. You will discover a new breadth of both discernment and openness.
This is what I have discovered in my own life. It isn’t always easy for me to listen to what I say and how I say it, but such listening brings me more and more a sense of appreciation and wonder for the “unstruck sounds”* that lie at the heart of being.
Copyright 2009-2017 by Dennis Lewis
*Rumi, Unseen Rain (Threshold Books, 1986, p. 12)