Dharma Topic: Mindful Speech and the Election

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Dear Still Water Friends,

After our sitting this Thursday, November 4,we will recite the Five Mindfulness Trainingsand focus our discussion on Mindful Speech andthe Election.

The Fourth Mindfulness Training reads:

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

These past few days I’ve been pondering how to relate this training to theelection. This morning the thought came to me that our country has become liketwo warring tribes which are exceedingly angry at each other and unable tocommunicate. Each side is distrustful, judgmental, and full of blame.

Marshall Rosenberg, the originator of the Nonviolent Communications processtells us that people in conflict can come together only when they are able tolisten to each other and honestly share their feelings and needs.

By needs Rosenberg means universal human needs: physical, emotional, andspiritual nutriments that make life both possible and rich. Needs includeautonomy, celebration, integrity, interdependence, play, spiritual communion,and physical nurturance. (NVC’s list of needs can be found at http://cnvc.org/needs.htm.)

Feelings, for Rosenberg, arise when needs are met or not met. When our needs aremet we may feel: confident, affectionate, engaged, inspired, grateful, hopeful,refreshed, etc.  When our needs are not being met, we may feel afraid,annoyed, angry, embarrassed, tense, pained, vulnerable, etc. (NVC’s list offeelings can be found at: http://cnvc.org/feelings.htm.)

When people can non-judgmentally share their observations and relate them totheir feelings and needs, compassion is nurtured. Rosenberg writes:

We learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others, and to identify and clearly articulate what we are wanting in a given moment. When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, and needed, rather than on diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion. Through its emphasis on deep listening-to ourselves as well as others-NVC fosters respect, attentiveness and empathy, and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart.

During our program this Thursday evening, as anexercise in mindful speech, we will role play Democrats and Republicans comingtogether, and, using NVC methods, sharing their observations, feelings, andneeds.

It should be interesting.

As this Thursday is the first Thursday of the month, we will begin our gatheringat 6:30 pm with anorientation to the Still Water community and to the basic mindfulnesspractices. Newcomers and old-timers are invited to attend, ask questions, andshare experiences.

Our meditation period begins with a sitting at7:00 pm. At 7:25 we will practice walking meditation, until about 7:35. Oursecond sitting will begin after the walking meditation and continue until 8:00.Although participants are welcome to join us at any time, it will cause theleast disturbance to others if you can join us at the beginning of the firstsitting or during the walking meditation.

I invite you to join us this Thursday evening.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher