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15/02/2019

A spiritual comment and prayer to begin the day with Alison Murdoch, Tibetan Buddhist, writer and editor.

A spiritual comment and prayer to begin the day with Alison Murdoch Tibetan Buddhist, writer, & editor.

A key Buddhist teaching called the Eightfold Path is often represented as a wheel with eight spokes. One of those spokes is right speech – the kind of words and conversation that comfort, inspire, and generally make the world a better place. We probably all know someone who practices right speech and have observed the positive effect it has on the people around them. We also know how easy it is not to use right speech, and the damage and regret that often follow.

A short exercise called ‘talking to plants’ can be unexpectedly revealing about the way we choose to speak. It starts with sitting in front of a living plant, either indoors or out in nature. Step One is to say something to the plant that is emotionally neutral, such as “Your leaves are green.” You need to speak out loud, so you’ll probably want to be out of earshot of anyone else. How does this neutral statement make you feel? Probably nothing. Step Two is to say something nasty, as if the plant was someone you dislike. How does this make you feel? Step Three is to say something friendly and encouraging to the plant, and again watch what effect this has on you. When I first did this exercise I was struck by how strongly what I said influenced how I felt. Neutral felt disconnected and flat. Nasty brought an immediate buzz, and sometimes a laugh, but left a bad taste in the mouth. Whereas saying something friendly and encouraging, even to a plant, made me feel surprisingly good inside.

In this era of round the clock news and fake news, of posting and re-posting, tweets and re-tweets, it seems more important than ever to remember the power of our words. Let’s pray that we can all use our speech with care today, bringing happiness rather than harm to ourselves and the people around us.

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