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Awakening Right Speech with Meditation and Writing in My Sangha Community, an excerpt from That Which Awakens Me by Ananda Leeke
Awakening Right Speech with Meditation and Writing in My Sangha Community, an excerpt from That Which Awakens Me by Ananda Leeke (iUniverse, Inc. - Winter 2009)

Copyright 2008 by Madelyn C. Leeke

Sangha is a Sanskrit word that means community with a common purpose. It gives us an opportunity to embrace and practice Buddhist principles that honor oneness with all people and things. It reminds us that we are the world. My Refuge3 and People of Color Sangha communities are soul sanctuaries. They are rooted in the Vispassana meditation tradition and connected to the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC (http://www.imcw.org/). Both sangha communities are organized to support Buddhist practice and dialogues on race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and other identity markers. They deepen my spiritual living and understanding through contemplative practices such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation. These practices help me become aware of the present moment in my body, mind, spirit, heart, and interactions with others.

When I participate in sitting and walking meditations with my sangha communities, I immediately connect with the group’s energy, compassion, and loving kindness. They remind me that I am not alone. Their presence creates a supportive anchor that nurtures and witnesses my intention to surrender my ego, open my heart, be present, and practice self-care. They provide a safe space for me to learn, communicate, share, and grow beyond the obstacles of suffering in my life. Each time we come together, I walk away with a collection of insights and inspiration that often find a home in my creative expression.

During a recent Refuge3 Sangha meeting, I participated in a dharma talk and discussion led by fellow member Ken Yamaguchi-Clark, affectionately known as “Dharma Farma.” Ken’s dharma talk and discussion addressed right speech, one aspect of Buddhism’s Noble Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path is a spiritual practice that guides people toward self-awakening and liberation from suffering. Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the Eightfold Path. It urges people to communicate by telling the truth; speaking in a gentle, warm, and friendly tone; abstaining from divisive and harsh speech; and avoiding idle chatter that has no depth or purpose.

During Ken’s dharma talk, he shared how important it is to slow down and breath deeply before speaking. This practice allows you to focus on intent by asking the question: why do I want to speak. I thought about how this question could help me become more aware of myself by getting in touch with my seven personalities that make up my inner council. I made a mental note that by identifying and understanding each of my personalities’ voices, I could better understand why I want to speak certain thoughts and make a more informed choice on how I speak them.

Ken’s dharma talk ended with a right speech exercise based on a writing practice that he learned about while reading Zen Buddhist writer Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones. The writer in me with a memoir deadline fast approaching was happy to participate because the writing practice would probably give birth to a juicy book excerpt. I know … I know … I’m a writing whore! Can you blame?

Ken instructed everyone to begin the writing practice by completing the statement: “What I really want to say is….” He mandated that we keep our pens moving for ten minutes nonstop without reading, thinking, judging, censuring, editing, or spell-checking. I was happy to oblige. At the end of the writing practice, Ken invited the group to breathe in and out several times before reading our work. I accepted his invitation and breathed in and out seven times. Afterwards I turned my attention to reading my own words.

What I really want to is just write. What I really want to say is that the yellow pad has so many lines. What I really want to say is that I have nothing to say. Who is Natalie Goldberg? I like this exercise. I think I want to use it for my breast cancer workshop. What I really want to say is that I don’t know if this writing exercise will produce an awakening. Right now it feels like I am just decorating the page with black ink on yellow paper. It is okay I guess. Witnessing. Writing. Wondering if anything pertinent is leaking out. Does it matter? Why care?
What I really want to say is that I have no agenda. I’m free falling with fragmented sentences, one-word phrases, unclear thoughts, and so much more I’m free flowing, reminding myself to stay free … to go with my own flow… to dance to my own beat. Yeah that’s me. Free. Liberation.

What I really want to say is that I love to write with nice ink pens. What I really want to say is that I like doing things with my sangha. I love being here with everybody even if I really don’t know what’s going on with everyone. I just like being here. Present. Doing. Being. Being. Doing. What I really want to say is that my pen just stopped working. Time out. What happened?

What I really want to say is that my mind chatter travels everywhere. My seven personalities that sit on my inner council keep things all mixed up in my head. Their subject matters travel through so fast. Sometimes they talk all at once. It becomes hard to hear each voice clearly. I get lost. I ramble. I lose pace. Sometimes they settle down on their own and give me time to catch up.

What I really want to say is that there is no place I’d rather be that being in the space of not knowing what I want to say and being okay with it... And voicing my okay-ness. Maybe even reading it aloud. Perhaps making it into a slogan on a t-shirt that I could wear while walking down U Street for all to see.

What I really want to say is how does any of what I have said or didn’t say connect to right speech? Maybe some of the stuff does. I’ll have to go back and check later. Perhaps this was just an exercise to cleanse my mind of chit chatter. Perhaps it was a form of writer’s masturbation. Whatever the case my head feels clearer. My thoughts are a bit more relaxed. My heart is a bit more open.

Now what I really want to say is peace and thank you Ken for this writing practice and Refuge3 Sangha members for writing in community with me. That’s a wrap.