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Verbal Detox

Published on 17/02/17
by randy

The verbal mind can be quite a toxic place to hang out. It’s of our human nature to be dissatisfied with things. We know the power of the present moment and the joy to be found in simply finding gratitude to ‘be here now’. When I meditate, I’m continually finding myself coming back to the present with the indicating words of “I just want to be here”. As I observe the mind, restlessness comes up and I want something different. It can take the form of greed (I want more) or fear (I’m afraid of losing what I have). My mind is either pushing back on something or grasping for something. The very nature of language reinforces the illusion of our separateness. It’s easy to see how I can objectify others when caught in the necessarily time bound elements of ‘subject and object’ language. Even the use of personal pronouns feeds this dichotomy. We know thoughts are linguistically based, so finding space to settle the verbal mind down seems essential to a well balanced life. That’s why I like to practice nonverbal prayer. Real alignment and balanced posture seems to best be found in that space between words. Yet, few people have developed this skill given the incessant chatter that goes on around us and inside our heads. That’s why I believe a verbal detox is such a healthy thing for our body/mind/spirit development.

A verbal detox retreat is much like a cleanse we would do with our bodies. Just as we consume items we know harm our body, we also consume thoughts that are toxic to our bodies. The more we feed the seeds of fear, anger, hate, greed and division, the more we harm the body and slow our spiritual deepening. A verbal detox is like taking a disciplined break from the complaining, negative mind. It’s also taking a break from the mind trying to force joy and happiness through ignorance to the suffering of others. Just as a fast or juice cleanse aims to reawaken the body to it’s natural balance, a verbal cleanse aims to settle the mind in stillness, allowing an awakening to deeper alignment of posture. Sitting in that space between words we can see through the illusion of ‘us vs. them’.

A verbal detox retreat minimizes language activity. There’s greater focus on simply witnessing what comes up, moment to moment. This is perhaps best accomplished through mutual breathing exercises. The breath is always coming up. It’s a precious gift of the moment. When the restless mind arises, we are simply instructed to come back to observing the breath. Another activity is toning. It’s nonverbal, draws our attention to the nature of sound, and allows us to explore outside of words. If language is used, it’s used sparingly to help deepen our awareness to the present moment. It’s a language of curiosity that deepens our allowing. For example, a yoga teacher can describe the moment to moment elements of an asana (balanced posture) as the student stays present and focused to balance, movement and rhythm. In effect, we deepen into our posture as we surrender the verbal and touch stillness. We fall out of balance and rhythm to the extent we awaken the critical mind. There’s a new discovery of nature’s precision in harmony and balance.

A verbal detox is much like any other tune up. The participant becomes more aware of the nonstop verbal chatter that tends to imprison us. Most of us experience thoughts popping up throughout the day and many of them grab hold of us. We then elaborate on these thoughts and often come to a point where we’re willing to fight others over our sense of being ‘right’. While it’s often estimated that we all have close to sixty thousand thoughts a day, it’s also been estimated that over ninety-five per cent of these thoughts are not new. We can grow our creative mind tremendously simply by growing our awareness to the limitations of an out of control verbal mind.

Perhaps the greatest virtue of all is that of equanimity. How well do we hold our posture in the face of difficulty? Do we have the training, courage and awareness to carry a balanced, upright posture when the earthquake seems to be happening? Can we stop, touch the space between words, fully embracing the moment in our ‘uprightness’ before making a mess of things? Or will unbridled fear, greed and ignorance rule the day?

Many of us take better care of our cars than we do of our bodies and minds. We know that salt, sugar and trans fats are toxic to the body. Yet, our super markets are filled with products which we willingly buy and consume. Some estimate that over fifty per cent of the products sold in our grocery stores today should be classified as poison rather than food. This is also the case with the news and entertainment we consume. It’s hard to find entertainment that’s nonviolent. It’s almost impossible to find news media that doesn’t stress the worst in human nature with endless speculation driven from fear and greed about how we must protect ourselves from one another. Perhaps the best test of our awareness training is to tap into ‘how we feel’. If I feel bad after eating toxic food, it’s perhaps best to find foods that make me feel good. If watching violent entertainment lowers my sense of wellness and grows my own violence, it’s perhaps best to not watch it. If the news media I watch is toxic, growing anger, fear and greed, it’s perhaps best to temper it so that I don’t contribute to growing the toxicity. We need to examine all that we consume and assess how it makes us feel and how it makes those around us feel.

Our reactivity to one another from negative emotion can threaten our very existence. Our capacity to hold balance grows our strength in meeting one another’s suffering. A verbal detox brings us to that place where we see the critical importance in aiming to ‘not cause harm’. That space between words deepens our relationship with the unknown, what many have called God. A verbal detox grows our courage to bear witness to the violence of the world. We can stand with a solid, aligned posture, and stand strong in the face of those who would rob opportunity and freedom through acts of violence.

Today, so many ask what can be done. So many have buried there heads in the sand having given up hope. Yet, today may be the greatest opportunity ever to grow awareness through stillness training, through a verbal detox, through cultivating harmony and balance between the words.

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