To Serve, with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr Day, and…
The holiday season is a time of year when we often feel increased sensitivity and depletion as we actively desire connection. The four gates of skillful speech can be a tremendous gift.
Rooted in Buddhism, the four gates of skillful speech (also referred to as wise or right speech) are a systematic yet simple approach to communicating with compassion, respect and accuracy. They can help us to avoid added hiccups and strains in our relationships with others. Each “gate” represents an inquiry that we are invited to reflect upon before speaking. Moreover, we’re invited to only share our thoughts and opinions with others if the answer to each inquiry is a clean yes.
Taking a somatic approach (that is, sensing into our bodies as we inquire, and noticing physical sensations that arise as we hold each gate in awareness) can facilitate our capacity to drop beneath unconscious judgements, filters and narratives that we may be adding, and to listen more clearly.
The Four Gates of Skillful Speech: A Somatic Approach
Is it true?
We begin by asking ourselves, is what we want to express true? As author and teacher Byron Katie shares in what she calls the work, it can be helpful to also ask, is it really true? As you reflect on these questions, practice also listening to your body for sensations that may indicate exaggeration or partial untruth (e.g., constriction, heaviness, numbness, discomfort, heat, etc.) as well as for sensations that convey truth (e.g., brightness, openness, ease, groundedness, etc.)
Is it useful?
Will this information or these opinions support greater understanding or connection? Another aspect of this gate is to consider if you are the right person to be sharing it. Something may be true and useful yet not our story to tell. Taking time to allow any physical sensations to arise in body as you consider these inquiries, can you feel a yes? In the realm of wise communication, maybe or sort of is not yes.
Is it right timing?
Is now the time to say it? Does the recipient have space and time to take in? If it’s difficult, are the recipients adequately resourced at this time? Are you sufficiently resourced in this moment to hold a caring and constructive conversation? Again, listen with your body. Notice what sensations make themselves known as you hold these questions in awareness.
Is it kind?
Is it caring? Does it honor the dignity of others? Are you motivated to foster goodness and wellbeing, or to rid yourself of discomfort and bolster your ego? It can also be useful to see if what Brené Brown refers to as “hot-wiring connection” is at play – a dis-ingenuine form of connection based on common hatred and disparagement that also erodes trust. Continuing to listen with your whole body, sense into what your heart feels and notices. You may choose to place a hand or hands over your heart when working with this gate.
For more compassion-based resources head HERE.