Word with Friends

WORDS WITH FRIENDS is a popular smart phone app that allows a virtual connection between friends, or strangers, while playing a Scrabble-like word game.

It’s fun, let’s hope it’s good for the brain, and it’s free.

But what about real words with friends or stangers? The kind of words that make a difference in the world. The words that can lift someone up or cut someone down. How can a mindfulness practice help with real words?

The practice of mindfulness allows for awareness without judgment or criticism. When we pay attention to the “internal tape” that runs simultaneous to conversations with others, we can notice ways in which we are not truly listening. We can notice ways in which we are formulating responses that interfere with empathic and compassionate interactions to others. We can notice a tendency to react, rather than waiting to respond. It is often this unnoticed “internal tape” that leads to harmful speech. When we don’t pause, even for a moment, we are unfortunately capable of mindless speech.

The cultivation of mindfulness, apart from its Buddhist origins, still demands a sense of ethics or sila as it referred to in Buddhism. It is the opportunity to live in the world as a wholesome person, one who performs good deeds in this world.

 

May Thich Nhat Hanh’s words help us use our words with friends
and strangers to make the world a better place:

 

“Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating 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 am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope.

 

I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticise 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 am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.”

 

~Claire Weiner

Panic on the Cushion

Several years ago, at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, I attended a five-day Advanced Training in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for Depression. MBCT is an evidence- based intervention designed to prevent recurrence in people who suffer from recurrent depression. The setting was serene, central Massachusetts in late summer. The grounds were lush and alive with the natural sounds of summer; yet it was so very quiet. I could feel my breath slow each time I entered the meditation hall. The two teachers were skillful and ten other students were a congenial.

The training was a combination of mindfulness practice, instruction, and role-playing.

I felt I was in the right place.

On the second day, in the middle of the afternoon, the sun was streaming through the windows of the meditation hall, reflecting off the wood floor, the room was warm as I sat on my zafu, legs crossed in front of me. Breathe in, breathe out. Only this time instead of my breath slowing, my breath quickened. Breathe in, breathe out. Still quickening…heart pounding…sweat beading on my face.

I must be sick. I’ve got to get out of here.

And then it dawned on me.

I’m not sick. This is panic. For some reason I was having a panic attack in this beautiful, calm, serene space.

While I’m not prone to panic attacks, I certainly was able to recognize what this was.

And so I chose to stay and sit through it. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

I found my breath again and again and the panic passed. I have no idea how much time elapsed, but there I was breathing normally, my heart was no longer pounding and the sweat was gone.

The intense difficulty of the panic had moved past…like the clouds in the sky or the sticks in the river. The impermanence of panic. It was a powerful and good lesson.

 

~Claire Weiner