You talk too much

Last week I had someone come to my class who didn’t speak any English, nor did I speak his language. Suddenly I became quite aware of how much I was saying when I taught. I kept thinking to myself, “If I were him and I didn’t understand a word that was being said, would I be thinking right now, What the hell could this woman possibly be going on so much about, for God’s sake?”

As a matter of fact, one of the most popular questions from perspective students over the years when they’ve found out I’m a teacher has been, “Are you one of those yoga teachers who talks all the time? I can’t stand that!”

I never really know how to answer that. Yes. No. It depends. Some days.

Yes, I do give quite a bit of anatomical instruction and dharma. No, I don’t incessantly speak. It depends on what I’m intending to convey; some days the tone of the class is very quiet, other days not.

And I understand there will always be people who wished I would shut up so they could rest into their own meditation and people who wished I’d say more so they could be held by the words. This makes it even harder to discern what too much is.

Until I remember that it really, really isn’t about pleasing everyone, but about being true to myself when I teach. And when I remember that, the question becomes, “Does what I’m about to say serve my students and me?”

Because the truth is, whether we’re teaching or not, many of us have the tendency toward diarrhea of the mouth. I know that’s kind of a crude way of saying it, but it’s also spot on. It’s that feeling of talking so much that you don’t get the opportunity to digest your own words (or the words or actions of others) and you feel depleted.

Good medicine for this is to practice silence. There have been times in my life when I’ve observed one day of silence a week. It’s delicious and nourishing. Filling.

And it doesn’t take a whole day. Even a few minutes can be quite satiating. I have to remember this when it comes to teaching—that sometimes whatever tasty morsel I have to offer through my words is less than a few sweet minutes of hush. Much less.

I’m learning that this is even more true for me when it comes to my close relationships. For so long my learning in the art of finding my voice, both as a teacher and as a woman, was about speaking up, and learning how to be direct and honest no matter how uncomfortable it is.

It seems that now my learning in the art of finding my voice is in how to not probe into every situation with words or package every experience with language, no matter how uncomfortable that is. And for me, it can be pretty uncomfortable.

It’s uncomfortable because silence brings us closer to Mystery, to the ineffable, to not having control. And yet that’s exactly why it’s so very satiating and illuminating.

And so, I think the question when it comes to right speech is, “Does saying this serve me, the person/people I’m saying it to, and the larger silence that holds us all?”

Depending on the situation, that question could be reframed in a number of different ways: Am I talking to mitigate discomfort of some sort (mine or theirs)? Am I not saying this because I’m scared or nervous? Is there a way I can convey this information with fewer words? Is what’s needed radical honesty or radical silence?

Though, believe me, there’s so much more I could say on this topic, I’m going to practice saying less.