One of the benefits of chemo brain fog (not to mention post-stroke motor skills weirdness — as in “what the hell are my hands doing now and who told them to type that!) is the opportunity those beauties have given me to really get down with this mindfulness thing. Mindfulness, a very popular term and a growing practice throughout the land, is what I’ll use as a placeholder for the first two of The 5 Principles of Authentic Living: Be Present and Pay Attention.
Mindfulness. Be Present. Pay Attention. I have got to be very focused and mindful of where I place my fingers on the keyboard, which is something I learned in high school typing class. If my fingers are not place correctly on the keyboard, I fyppe fiburgis . . . damn, I mean I type gibberish. Oy vey.
These days, I have to not only be extra careful about where I place my fingers, I have to remain extra, even super, careful about how my fingers move from one key to the next. My muscle memory seems to be compromised by the twin beauties I mentioned above. If I have any hope of being accurate, clear, legible and sensible in my typing, I have to be super careful all the way through. It was enough, before, to just start out correctly and I could trust my muscle memory to take it from there. Not now. Mindful. Be Present. Pay Attention. To start, and all the way through. No let up.
Yes, I am a bit of a writer. But I fancy myself as more of a speaker. My writing is really my mouth on paper. So, as a speaker, what does it mean to place my speaking fingers, or mouth, in the correct place so as to speak in an intelligent, coherent, enchanting, and inspiring manner?
I know, this sounds like Zen on steroids. Silence? How can silence help me be a more effective speaker?
I’ll tell you! I’ve been a speaker for my entire adult professional life. I created Speaking Truthfully a dozen years ago to teach people what I’ve learned about being an effective speaker, to be a speaker who tells the truth, who reveals the truth of who they are and what they stand for. This is the essence of effective speaking: revealing the truth about who you are. That’s why the tagline of Speaking Truthfully is “YOU are the message.”
Sharing information and telling people about what you know is a part of speaking. It is not the most important part. Telling the truth about who you are — if not in words than in vulnerability, transparency, intimacy, honesty —is.
Silence. That’s the word I use to point in the direction of the mama bear hug that surrounds the first four of The 5 Principles of Authentic Living: Be Present, Pay Attention, Listen Deeply, Speak Truthfully. These principles, as is true with mindfulness, requires that we learn how to access, and live from, a place in our being that is deeper, wider, truer than the thoughtstream, our constant and chronic thoughts and emotions, the ones that are often like fingers gone all spring break, getting drunk and not working the way they’re supposed to work!
When I speak, to one person or 1,000, for five minutes or all day in a class, I keep a big part of my attention on my breath. I follow it as it comes in, as it disappears in my vast inner depth, and emerges. It is the vast inner depth that I call silence. That is where we find the truth of who we are. If we speak from that place, we will be telling the truth of who we are.
It is essential that we learn how to do this, how to speak less from our knowledge base and more from the vast inner depth of silence that lives within us. Let silence use our knowledge base. We need both. But most speakers are terrified of a simple pause, let alone the silence of their vast inner being. Silence is good. It can show up in our words. Speaking from silence is not not speaking. It is speaking to be sure. I never shut up. I’m always speaking. But, if I don’t speak with my attention on my breath and the place where it disappears in me, the vast depth, then I am speaking gibberish, pure shit.
So, thank you to my high school typing class, to stage 4 lung cancer, to chemo brain fog, to acute embolic strokes, to my fetish to speak and write, to silence, to the creator of the universe. Fuck. Thank you to everyone and everything. Love to all. I mean it.