Every morning before I drive my son to school, we make two stops; the first is at Starbucks, where my son patiently waits in line and then orders his apple juice. The second stop is at Cobbs Bread, where my son buys his morning butter croissant. Both places know my son and they know his regular order. In the past two months, my son has gone in by himself while I anxiously wait outside, watching both transactions and giving him a high five as he successfully comes out with his purchases, beaming from ear to ear. At thirteen, this may not seem like a huge victory but it is. My son Bailey has autism and the way that it affects his life is his ability to speak. Bailey can understand language very well but when he wants to communicate his needs, wants, desires, hopes, feelings, the words just get stuck, lost in the depths of his beautiful mind. As a mother of a child with unique abilities, I have a higher awareness of the power of spoken communication; a power so many of us take granted.
Language is a tool; it can be used to build people up, to accomplish greatness and to raise an entire society. It can also be a weapon, perhaps, the most dangerous weapon in our world. A lot of the time we wield this great influence without intention or consciousness, unaware of how the words that we speak create a story and an experience for those around us.
This always brings me to my yoga practice. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, one of the first practices leading to spiritual freedom or enlightenment is a series of restraints to incorporate into our lives. Satya, the second restraint, directly translates to non-lying, but it is more than that. Sat, the root of the word, means real. Speaking what is real; the truth. It is very complicated however because we know that our experiences are our own, which means that what is real or truthful for us, may not be so for someone else. How are we able to bridge this gap? We have to have conscious communication and speak from a place of loving kindness, being mindful with our words and language. Most importantly, we need to listen.
There is an amazing quote by Stephen R. Covey that says “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Before the person we are talking to has formed their words, we have already decided how we are going to reply in our heads. We have already formed our “truth” and our opinion, without even allowing space to be informed; to be shown another way. Even in my son’s experience, if he is unable to reply right away to a question, people assume he is rude or didn’t understand. Even lack of response creates a story.
So my practice is to breathe; I need space to absorb. Before I reply, I try to listen, comprehending what I have heard and think about the outcome of my response. I T.H.I.N.K.- Are my words Thoughtful and True? Are they Helpful? Are they Inspiring? Are they Necessary? Are they Kind? I try to honor this gift of speech that I have been given. It isn’t always easy and some patterns are hard to break. I am also aware of my heightened sensitivities to language patterns that people have used for years. Pejoratives especially rub me the wrong way. The other day a friend used the phrase “they looked at me like I was special.” I cried. Having a child with exceptionalities and knowing the daily struggle that brings almost always flares my inner warrior. That is when I have to think very carefully before I respond. Recognizing language patterns and the opportunity to evolve usually prevails. I always try to be informative without being reactionary and use it as an opportunity to have a meaningful dialogue. It isn’t always easy but that is why it is a practice.
My son, as per usual, is far ahead of me. When you have to type out what you want to say, you have much more time to think about what is necessary and what it is you want to convey. What is important is always apparent and there is no mincing words. He also knows that silence and a cute smile can go a long way
Join Amber on November 26th, as she continues on with her Living Your Yoga Series, diving deeper into Satya.