Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of January 6, 2020

Speaking Presence

(Relationship Presence: 2)

There is a big difference between speaking and talking. Like so much else that we do, we can talk on autopilot, by habit, history, and reaction. Talking comes easily to most of us. We exclaim, respond, or ramble on, in the way we usually do, with only a small part of ourselves engaged. It is a rather sophisticated autopilot that gives the strong illusion that we ourselves are doing the talking. But our talking happens on its own, with little or no involvement from our intentional self.

The way we are using the word "speaking" is not to contrast it with talking in terms of the formality of the occasion. We are not concerned here solely with giving a speech or a lecture. The contrast we are after is between the act of speaking as being fully engaged in uttering words while we are present versus talking as having words come forth without our presence and full engagement. Talking is often just reacting, or a fill-in-the-blank, fill-up-the-silence, or grab-the-attention script written and rehearsed long ago. Talking takes place with little conscious intention or attention to what we are saying. We talk at people, as if they were not real people like we are. In speaking we talk to people, cognizant and respectful of their personhood.

In speaking presence, we mean what we say and we fully intend to say it. It is not rote. Even if we have said something similar before, now we are saying it afresh. Even prior to speaking we are present. The words we say arise out of our presence. We speak with the whole of ourselves. We know what we are saying and have a sense of why we are saying it, as well as where we are going with it. We feel what we are saying, with the meaning pervading both our mind and heart. Physically, we are there in our body, saying what we are saying. We are in what we are saying.

However, none of this is piecemeal. We do not add body awareness to being in touch with the meaning of the words. If, for example, we try to sense our arm while we speak, we find it rather difficult. It requires us to divide our attention, taking some attention away from what we are saying. The latter effect means that we are not as engaged in speaking as we could be. The division of attention weakens its parts. Attention is an example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Instead of trying to come to presence in speaking by building up parts and holding on to each of them, we come to it as a whole. We choose to speak and we are there as we speak, all-in. Our strong intention to be here, saying what we are saying, entrains everything in us. That intention brings our body into our presence, so that we are fully in our whole body as we speak. It brings our emotions in. It brings our mind in. We are a complete person speaking.

Being present in speaking affects not only how we speak, but also what we say. We have a heart. We are sensitive to the state of the people around us and how our words affect them. We care. Furthermore, we are free. We are not posturing or manipulating. We are not lost in or constrained by our conditioning, our programming. In touch with the moment and its possibilities, the creative can enter us, the new and the spontaneous. There can be kindness and there can be joy.

For this week, please practice speaking presence.


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