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Friday, December 21, 2018

Nourishing Words

I often tell people, when they are returning from a retreat, to tell a few lies when they return home. I invite them to say, "I miss you. It is good to see you again." The person speaking these words feels good; so does the person hearing them. And, it really isn't a lie at all. You do mean it, but there's always other relationship junk that gets in the way. The person who hears these words no longer have to wonder if he or she has space in your life; you've communicated to them that they do. They are welcome in your life.

These are good words to speak at Christmas and over the holidays because it sets a culture of hospitality. Perhaps, not all behaviors are welcomed and they may have to be negotiated, but fundamentally the person is welcomed into your home.

It is important to use nourishing words when we gather as family or loved ones. Everything we consume heals us or poisons us. The conversations that go on around us are also food. When we say something that nourishes us and uplifts people around us, we are feeding love and compassion. When we speak in a way that causes tension and anger, we nourish violence and suffering.

We ingest toxic communication from those around us. We also ingest healthy ones. Do those help us grow in compassion and understanding? Mindful communication is the way forward.

Relationships do not survive without the right food

We suffer because of difficult conversations. We feel misunderstood. We have to select the kind of food we offer the other person to help the relationship thrive. (Love, hate, suffering needs food to continue.)
With mindful awareness, we can look into the nature of our suffering and find what kind of food we have been supplying to keep it alive. We can cut off the supply to let the suffering fade.

Communication can bring love and relationship back to life. Thoughts nourish. (suspicious, anger, fear, irritation strains the relationship.) In strained relationships, we need to nourish compassion.

One cruel utterance can set a person back for years. When a loved one suffers, we suffer too.

Love, respect, and friendship all need food to survive. We can produce thoughts, speech, and actions that will feed our relationships and help them grow and thrive.

What can we say?

The less we say the better off we are. If we are practicing deep listening, then we notice that we are not speaking. The person in front of us wants and needs to be heard. Use questions as your allies in promoting positive conversations. Ask something like, "Can you say more about that? or say something like, "Help me to understand."

If you are asking questions, you want to help the person articulate what she or he is feeling. Probe for clarity and rephrase what the person is saying that they know you are understanding their message. Connections will happen when the person feels understood.

Recognize that each person is suffering in some ways. It might be right on the surface and buried deep beneath, but it affects everything. We alleviate one's suffering when we listen deeply and try to understand what they are feeling. We are communicating that we know they suffer and we are not leaving. In fact, we are staying and trying to learn more about their suffering. In this moment, there is happiness.

Refrain from asking questions that lead to a definitive 'yes' or 'no' unless you are willing to go deeper. For a person who wants to avoid his or her own suffering, the person will have already answered the question, so you must probe very gently.

How can I use Loving Speech?

When we have to tell a person bad news, we can train ourselves to speak the truth in a way that the other person can accept. When you speak, try to tell others about your suffering and their suffering. This is loving speech. We can use words that helps the person not be caught in misperceptions. Both hearer and speaker need mindfulness and skillfulness.

What you say can carry with it insight and understanding. With more understanding, you help the person suffer less and communication is more effective. You speak gently because you are willing to help.

We can use words the nourish ourselves and the other person. Your words convey only compassion and understanding. Your words inspire confidence and openness. This is generosity. This is Right Speech.

I'll write more on this later, but it might be a good primer for the holidays. We can shape many of our conversations by putting into practice Loving Speech. You will give another person hope, love, and faith because of your carefully chosen way of proceeding.

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