July, 2011

Greetings Dear Friends,

Last night I watched a political thriller series made by the BBC called “The State Within”.  Reflecting on it afterwards I was struck that it was not the violence, and there was plenty of it, that was most impactful but the integrity of the main character the British Ambassador to the United States.

A friend in Massachusetts recently sent me an e-mail commemorating July fourth with a speech by Martin Luther King.  A similar thought went through my mind; how powerful integrity and truth telling are, and how long they survive beyond even the life of the speaker.  The words of the Buddha are resounding through these thousands of years.

In the BBC series it was friends who challenged the ambassador in some of the decisions he was making. They kept pointing to his caring of others as a ground from which to make decisions. By the end of the series he was willing to jeopardize his job and political standing to tell the truth.

Truthfulness lives in our capacity to both care and to see clearly what is happening. It is the movement in speech and action to bring healing, opening, awareness and other beneficial conditions. I used to think truthfulness was blurting out everything, including all my feelings especially the negative ones, onto an unsuspecting partner, friend or even boss. When I lived in a community in Southern Oregon we had meetings, which went on for hours, and they were tortuous, acting out of this misunderstanding. It has taken me years to learn to check in and see if it is the right time to share, or even appropriate. We each make these decisions all the time over small things and big. For example I told my roommate I had a different design idea in mind for something she was building and didn’t ask her if she was interested in another option before giving an opinion.

The great thing about not blurting things out is that it gives us the opportunity to check in and notice how we are framing our sentences. If I start a sentence with “You…” for sure I am in blaming or judging mode. I know from past experience even if I don’t feel it in the moment blaming doesn’t create the conditions for healing and opening. It probably means I am disconnected from my own emotions and it is these that first need my attentiveness and caring.

The beauty of the precept of right speech and it’s invitation to refrain from harming with our words is that it is like a life-boat carrying us in turbulent waters back to the safety of inquiry; “is there caring in this expression? Speech is one of the most direct ways we communicate our intentions. It is the form through which many of our relationships are expressed. It is where each of us always has power.

The Ambassador recovered his caring and so can we. In conclusion I call on the great spirit of love and wisdom to speak through each of us. May we communicate our understanding, experiences and needs with grace, clarity and kindness May our efforts contribute to a world of political, cultural and inter-personal transparency.

In memoriam to all those who have died because they told the truth.

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