Midweek Faith Lift
October 31, 2018
The Spoken Word & the Power of the Pause
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
Life and death are in the power of the tongue –Proverbs 18:21
That is an incredibly powerful opening line….and it challenges us to consider what is it that we give life to with our spoken words and what is it that we destroy? In first century Palestine, the word of the King spoken aloud could in fact condemn one to death. What do we give life to, what do we destroy? It is no surprise that this statement is in Proverbs, which is part of the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Scripture. We surely need to cultivate wisdom in how we use our speech!
In our Unity teachings about the 12 Powers, the Power of Power is located in the throat chakra and is expressed in the power of the Spoken Word. Last week our focus was on our thoughts, the precursors to our speech and actions, the lens through which we view the world. Our task in learning to think metaphysically is to cultivate an awareness of our thoughts that allows us to choose the thoughts that give us life and to stop thinking the thoughts that are a dead end. Our practice is to move our thoughts vertically to align with Divine Mind and know in each moment of our horizontal time line of life that we are an “eachness in the Allness of God.”
And here is where it gets tricky, because when we move into the verbal expression of our thoughts, the spoken word, we are in the same conundrum…we speak before we think artfully and oh what an interesting mess that can make! The spoken word is right at the intersection of the vertical and horizontal cross beams of our life, the Divine/human intersection. What we say and how and when we say it really determines how we show up in the world with our Divine/human selves. We first choose our thoughts and then choose our words just as artfully. Otherwise, our words provide some of the richest compost for our personal, spiritual growth….whether we want them to or not!
When we speak without artful thinking, we can mindlessly create suffering, inflict unintended pain on ourselves and others and generally behave like ….well you have been there, no need to describe it! I have been there too, wishing I could take back what I just said. You can’t just erase your words any more than you can un-ring a bell. But just like our thoughts, which can run around like squirrels in a cage, we say lots and lots and lots of words every day. We can say so many words that the real value of each one goes down due to the sheer number and volume of them.
It was when I first attended a four-day Silent Retreat that I began to notice how many unsaid words are rattling around my tongue and in my head. You can sign up for conferences with the retreat leader, which allows you a chance to talk! Whew! I signed up for at least two sessions and could hardly wait for his lecture time so I could ask questions aloud! It took me several retreats to understand and deeply appreciate the joy of not talking, the relief of not answering questions of not making small talk with my fellow retreatants.
Our world has become so full of the incessant noise of talking that it feels a bit oppressive. It has been said that we have two ears and one mouth, so we need to listen twice as much as we talk. Hmmm, that would be a significant shift! In our common spaces, it is pretty much the other way around, and when someone isn’t listening, then we just get louder. Now that is the artful use of the spoken word for sure! NOT!!
What does all this matter, to us, as students of practical metaphysics? A lot, as it turns out. And what did Jesus have to say about the spoken word? Here are his well chosen words in the gospel of Matthew, under the heading, “Things That Defile”:
Things That Defile
10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: (Let him who has ears to hear, hear) 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” (NRSV)
WOW! This passage is chock full of Jesus wisdom nuggets and it turns traditional Jewish teachings upside down. In Judaism, there was a huge emphasis on keeping kosher, following the dietary laws. Jesus says that what comes out of your mouth, what you say, is what makes you unclean or defiled. It is more important than following the tribal dietary rules. Further, Jesus says that the words we say that are not of Love, of Spirit, that are not planted by “the Father” will be uprooted. In essence, those words have no power, no real spiritual power. Even more, when the disciples speak words of worry…do you know you offended the Pharisees? The powers that be? Jesus says to leave them alone—don’t answer them, don’t worry about them for they are blind, they do not see. And if you are both blind, you will fall into the pit; the pit of judgment, condemnation and hate. Wow!
That is spot on, incredibly powerful speech from Jesus that tells us what really matters. And friends, it is particularly relevant for us today with so many hateful words flying around. Staying out of the pit is the process of opening our eyes, to see everything in life from the “heavenly point of view”; planting words of love and not reacting, responding or worrying about words that are not of love. Those words are blind and land you in a pit. Those are words we do not want to speak. But it is very subtle difference, one that we don’t always recognize.
If life and death are in the power of the spoken word, what are the words of life that we want to speak more of and what are the words of death? How much of each one do we do? Butterworth describes it in terms of casual and causal speech. And it can be very subtle. It requires, much like artful thinking, that we pay attention to what we say, because when we our subconscious mind does not know the difference between casual and causal. If we say one thing with causal intention, such as “I really want to listen and understand in all my family relationships” and then in the next breath say casually “Oh, I will never understand or get along with__________. I can’t stand him!” Your artful thinking brain does not know what to do with that! You have one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake and you are stuck and pretty much in the pit.
Now I have never done that! The real TRUTH is that our words are potentially creative, they have the capacity to be causal, to bring things into manifestation, into being. Our speech is potentially full of the creative energy like the LOGOS of the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was God.” These are words of creation. The word Beginning, properly translated should be “principle;” In principle is the Word, Consciousness is the Word, the Creative energy and source from which all that exists is. When we align with Principle, with Spirit, with love, and let go of what is not love, then we step into the true Power of the Word, the vertical energy.
Butterworth says that by themselves, words do not create anything. It is only when our words are spoken from an authentic place of love, of Spirit, of Divine Principle that they become imbued with the true power of creation, of Divine energy. Blindly spoken words can stir up emotions, incite chaos, and fire up hatred and oppression. But as Jesus taught us, these words are not of the Father and they will be uprooted. Learning to speak words of life, of creation, is a practice, just like learning to think artfully is a practice. Our first practice is to pay attention to what we are thinking, and then pause to pay attention to what we are saying.
I call this the Power of the Pause or the Pause of Prayer. Stop and POP—engage the Pause of Prayer. When you tune into your thoughts…about any issue or event, notice your thoughts and how they keep you stuck. Remember the example from last week: the two hotel clerks working on a “full house” night: one of whom thought: I am going to have a lot of problems tonight and the other who thought, people are going to have a lot of problems tonight. I can imagine what the clerk who says he is going to have problems will experience and what he might say, especially if he neglects the Power of the Pause, the Power of Prayer.
Now let’s imagine what the clerk who expects that people will have problems, who practices the Pause of Power, the Pause of Prayer might say in response to one of those problems. Deep breath, quiet internal prayer to self, “God is solving this;” then speak, “I am sorry sir, we have given out all our extra towels tonight and I hear that is a problem for you, a real inconvenience. I am truly sorry about that, but that is how it is for right now.” Pause, breathe, connect to heart, and speak again. “Please know that I do hear you and I understand that it is an inconvenience.” Pause, pray, rinse and repeat, STOP & POP!!
And then just listen and let the person talk through the problem, allowing whatever process happens to just be. I can imagine there might be a lot of creative possibilities as the hotel guest comes to grips with the reality that they don’t always get what they want, even when they have paid for it and demand it. This process of pausing to pray, of artful thinking and mindful speech allows for creative energy and growth in consciousness to emerge for you, even if not for the other person. I can imagine all kinds of outcomes….can’t you? That is the creative power of the Spoken Word!
Blessings on the Path,