People don’t often talk about the circular repetitioin of real spiritual practice.
Identify an area of growth, learn about it, commit to practice, deepen and grow as a result. Then repeat over and over again. Forever.
The over and over happens at different times, for different reasons and always take me to a new place– but the purity of the practice remains. Today I found myself again needing to triple down efforts on Right speech and began reading my own words from a few years ago in order to re-commit to this most sacred practice because it’s the vow that has gotten me the farthest ( and I’ve broken the most ) :
Right Speech: Is what I’m saying worth dying for?
Did you know that the eighteenth-century founder of Hasidic Judaism, Baal Shem Tov, believed that each one of us is born with a fixed number of words to speak, and when the final word is spoken, the person dies?
No? Me Either.
He taught that its specifically the number of words, not the content or the quality and impact of the words themselves that matters. He believed we never know what the word count each one of us will receive is, so the next word could easily be our last.
I imagine he practiced noble silence a great deal.
I’ve spent some time exploring deep silence myself… I once walked two miles nearly straight up to the top of a monastery in Northern California, New Camaldoli Hermitage, where I planned to do a 10 day silent retreat. I didn’t make it 10 days, or even 5 but that’s another story that concludes with me falling into relapse because of an Amos Lee song blasting on a passing car radio and nothing could stop me from singing along.
But before my inevitable collapse of intentions, I had one of the most sacred experiences of my life… I spent days eating in silence, walking in silence, being with others all in silence.
I will never forget the intense sound of my heart beating.
The purpose wasn’t the silence. I wanted to rest a while and cleanse myself before I took a vow to practice right speech, the hardest of all the Precepts for a guy like me.
On my 4th and final day before my relapse I found a prayer from Chofetz Chaim and translated by Rami Shapiro stapled to the wall in the kitchen. I later found the book it came from and it’s one of the best I’ve ever come across: Recovery – the sacred art. The Twelve Steps as spiritual practice by Rami Shapiro.
After reading the prayer a hundred or so times I knew it would be instrumental in my new commitment to right speech:
“grant me the capacity to keep my mouth and my ears from gossip and slander. Let me not stereotype anyone or fall into the trap of blanket condemnation. May I avoid falsehood, flattery, strife, anger, arrogance, hurt, shame, mockery, and all other manner of hurtful speech. Give me the courage to speak truth with compassion and humility, using my words to further justice, kindness, and respect. May my thoughts, words, and deeds be for healing”