Yesterday I listened to a talk via podcast from last week by a favorite teacher of mine named James Baraz. He has weekly talks at the Berkeley Insight Meditation Community and I went to see him in person last month.
His talk this week really resonated with me; he titled it The Courage to be Yourself, and it reminded me of why I don’t speak up much. That was the topic from a few days ago, my first post in a month!
James began with how nasty our society has become and speaking your truth invites that negative energy into your life. The advent of the Internet commenting really triggered it. Remember flame wars and trolling? It’s gotten down to a fine art nowadays. He goes on to quote a recent article by SF Gate Columnist Mark Morford who is a culture critic here in Northern California:
We have become, in short, a nation of haters and trolls – or rather, a nation that numbly accepts hating and trolling, bullying and shaming as a part of everyday life, de rigueur and sort of built in to the cultural framework. It’s just who we are now.
Is it not true? We seem to breathe in this rank perfume of hate as if it was always there, as if there was no other option than to allow increasingly huge swaths of society to be mean as snakes, cowardly and hissing anti-everythings, spitting endlessly into the wind. As if we had no other choice – when choice is, in fact, the only thing we really have left.
Not speaking out of fear
You should read the entire column, it is a very good article. And it illustrates one of the reasons why I don’t say a whole lot. I don’t like conflict. Some people thrive on it, they love the challenge of a good debate or argument, but not me. I like mellow and harmonious relationships so I can focus my attention on other things.
And yes, it is also because of fear that I don’t speak out and say my truth. Seems like somebody is always offended at something, but there are causes that I wholeheartedly believe in that need a force behind it or nothing will ever change.
James mentions a book and author he is deeply inspired by. The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism, by Andrew Harvey. James says in his talk how absolutely fearless Andrew Harvey is. Hmmm… I will need a new book soon, so perhaps this one will be next.
I feel like I should be doing more in the broader scheme of things, to make a difference, but I don’t know how, given that the problems I care about are so overwhelmingly huge and powerful. On the other hand, a dear and wise friend of mine says that I’m already doing enough and if more and more people live consciously, then change will naturally occur. I’m still open on the idea.
Even on FaceBook I tend to comment on others’ posts rather than initiate my own. In person too, I tend not to say a whole lot unless I have something relevant to contribute. What is truthful? What is useful? Is it kind? I try and stick with these guidelines (right speech) and many times, it is better to just say nothing.
So James asks, in his talk, two questions, and I’ve answered them with my own contemplation. I invite you to do so as well.
- What gets in the way to share your truth?
(in life situations such as family and work, etc.)
For me it is the belief that I have to have all the answers about a given topic that I feel strongly about. If I don’t have a ream of data memorized to counter any argument at the drop of a hat, then it seems like I have no business expressing an opinion. I don’t want to memorize every detail of my side of an argument/philosophy/choice, so rather than having to back up my opinion, which is reasonably well-informed, I’d rather just keep my opinion to myself. Unless I’m in a room full of people who agree with me! :)I am also rather inarticulate when it comes to speaking. I can write just fine because I can take the time to collect my thoughts and organize them in a compelling manner, but talking with somebody throws in the element of the unexpected. Somebody tosses me a curveball question that I hadn’t thought of before and suddenly I am frozen. My brain just doesn’t work. Streaming consciousness through speaking is my weak point, writing works much better.
- What (or who) supports you having the courage to share your truth? You said what’s so, even when it was a little bit of a risk. How did that feel?
Well, that’s an easy one: My husband, Golf. He is FAR more outspoken than I am and is not shy about voicing his opinion. Around him I can say how I feel, and give an opinion to what I believe is true. Even if we disagree, we’re good to each other about it and supportive. If only everyone were that way with each other. He’s the only one I feel comfortable enough with speaking about controversial topics.I do speak on such topics with others, but usually if we are generally on the same side. How did it make me feel to say what is so? Rather empowered, once it’s out there. Those who respond in kind are held a bit closer.
OK, now I put these same questions out to you… contemplate them and give me your comment here or through Google Plus.