Screw The Three Gates
I've been more and more aware of my habits with my speech these days. Nothing like a year of confinement with your loved ones to put a mirror in front of your face about certain tendencies. "No one was meant to be isolated with their family members for this long," A good friend reminds me. Decades ago, when I first went to the San Francisco Zen Center and started on a path of Buddhist studies, I learned about "right speech." from the 5 precepts for ethical conduct. That sounds, good to me, and very doable, my 20 something mind thought. I can control my speech. (Dusting off my hands like the job is done) "Piece of cake. I got this one down," I thought to myself. Reading a quote from Rumi, a Sufi mystic reminded me, "Before you speak, let your words pass through 3 gates; Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?" "Done," I thought. In fact, on any given day, my speech has approximately 3 fences, 4 gates, and 5 roadblocks.
As I was walking with my good friend this morning, I joked that my speech is like building an Ikea cabinet. When I go into a conversation; mostly the bigger, more difficult conversations; I carefully construct how I'll say something. I unpack all the words I can use and carefully consider how to piece them together. I told her of my amazement at how some people can speak first and apologize second. Here's my formula; think about what I want to say first, prepare an apology and put it in my back pocket second, speak third, explain why I said what I said fourth, and apologize (even if it's not necessary) fifth.
It's why I love writing and why I've kept journals for years. Words on paper are easy. I can be reckless, ridiculous, untamed and I can close up these little notebooks, and hide them away (I've done so for years). Words with people; not so easy. They usually garner a response, a reaction or a differing opinion that I have no control over. Speech is one of the most bravest, courageous acts, in my eyes. Especially when directed to those I love and I'm around most (my children and Brian). As I try to learn a new normal with my speech my mind says, "Screw those 3 gates." As I explain this revelation to Brian (who lovingly is supporting me with this idea...for now), he jokes, "why don't you start the morning by greeting me with: "Good morning Mother F-er." We both do a belly laugh. Thank gawd for a sense of humor.
Somewhere between ancient wisdom (Buddhist and yogic philosophy) and modern psychology is a middle place. When push comes to shove, you can't always meditate, breathe or Sun Salut the hard things away.
I've also become more aware of the importance of our communities. This morning my good friend also reminds me, "It takes a village." It not only takes a village to raise children, but it takes a village to be a grown-up. I realize how much in the past year I've missed my village; friends and family near and far. I realize how all the small interactions with my loved ones help keep me on the path of being healthy and happy; an in-person chat over coffee, a walk with a group of friends, lunch with my sister, or bestie in California, sitting on my parent's comfy brown couch for a real catch-up. All of these seemingly little moments give me the subtle encouragement that anchors me on the path and helps me to move forward with courage and clarity.
Sorry Rumi, I'm busting through your 3 gates for a little while. For now, I'll meet you in the field:
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there," Rumi.