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Lions Roar : January 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2012 63 episode sucked canal water. In a segment about my Speak No Evil experiment, Marty pointed out that I was failing—mis- erably. In my effort to be “honest” I thought I could get away with loose lips, but there are all kinds of ways to speak truthfully without threaten- ing others or maligning creative efforts. I was spending far too much of my time looking for a punch line (which, by the way, has the word “punch” in it). Frankly, I needed some- one pointing out my failure—Marty had done me a favor—tell- ing me to sober up and fly right. Eliminating decades of public smack talk is going to take some time. To help get me back on track, my spiritual mentor Dawn decided to bring in the big Buddhist guns, introducing me to Tulku Yeshi Gyatso, a Tibetan monk who lives at the Sakya monas- tery in Seattle. As we sat over tea, I began to understand the much bigger picture that loomed over my Speak No Evil experiment. “Words not like horse,” Tulku noted. “Horse you can catch once it is out and gone. Words, you can’t catch. Mouth make trouble.” I had been worrying about slips of the tongue, when appar- ently the key is not to stifle words when they’re in your mouth, but long before. As we sat, Tulku used one word over and over: silence. “When upset, silence is best. Just (pause) silence. Smile. Enjoy. Be happy. Silence. Gives time to think. Silence!” Whereas I was struggling with the concept of not sticking my foot in my mouth, if you look before you leap, there won’t be a time when something “just slips out.” Tulku also suggested wearing something that would remind me of my right speech journey, a ring or bracelet that might rein- force thinking before opening my yap. So I’m now wearing a ring with a blue agate stone setting. It looks kind of like a mood ring, but the mood is not “lovestruck” or “adventurous,” but “less talk- ative.” “In public, check your mouth,” Tulku intoned, “when you are alone, check your mind.” Inspired by Tulkula, I decided to go quiet for a day to see how that changed my outlook. For me, arranging a day of silence was a whole lot easier than it would be for most folks: no job, no boss to report to, no water cooler, no spouse, no live-in kids, no problem. I turned off the ringers on my phones and explored the sounds of silence. I don’t know about golden, but silence is quite pleasant. The day was peaceful, even oddly energizing. Tulku had told me a fable about a man who was screaming at the Buddha for five straight hours. As the Buddha sat quietly, the man returned and yelled at him for another five hours! Buddha said nothing. “To the Buddha,” Tulku explained, “it was as if this man was running up to him and stacking giant stones at his feet saying, ‘Take care of these!’ Then he run off for more rocks. At the end of day, man is exhausted. Not Buddha. He is refreshed!” Talking, it turns out, is very demanding. I ventured away from the homestead only twice, once for cof- fee (figures my barista would become Mr. Chatty on my Silent Day) and to the supermarket for the mile-long salad bar. Took me a while to realize that blaring my iPod and bombarding my brain with channel-surfing doesn’t exactly count as quiet time. As soon as I set aside the multimedia, I began to hear the world around me. Birds were singing, seaplanes soared over- head, sounds of the city floated by, the pack of toddlers next door punted recycling bins down the alley. I had to ignore sev- eral urges to make phone calls, and, in a pantomime that would have made Marcel Marceau proud, somehow managed to get the neighborhood gardener to mow my lawn. I always have plenty of conversations going on in my head, so there was no lack of “communication,” but the imposed silence slowed the pace, and, though not sending me fulltime to the ash- ram, centered me in a nice way. Everyone should try it, starting with Piers Morgan. Or Lady Gaga. My parents are amazing examples of the Speak No Evil phi- losophy. Maybe it’s generational, or maybe it’s that Herb and Isa- bel are from an ethically superior age bracket, but over the years I have rarely heard either of them speak negatively about anyone. I’ve even tested their limits by talking badly of individuals, try- ing to provoke them into a little reputation-bashing. The most I could ever get out of my father was, “He does tend to get quite animated after a few pops.” I knew at some point I’d have to give them the details about my wife’s affair—otherwise they’d wonder why we weren’t in constant In public, check your mouth,” Tulku Yeshi said, “when you are alone, check your mind.” “