This morning I was returning home from a peaceful walk before breakfast when I met one of my neighbors walking her dog.
“What do you think of Trump?” she asked.
“I wish he’d walk off a cliff,” I said, stunned by the words as they came out of my mouth, unable to take them back.
“Oh, I’d never wish death on anyone,” she said, interpreting my words in the most extreme way possible.
Is that what I’d done?
“I just wish he’d disappear,” I said, already regretting the words that I’d uttered for exactly the reason that my neighbor had given.
But the words had just come out, and I was surprised by how quickly they’d emerged and how my feelings of fear and anger toward this man were so close to the surface. (I imagine others are dealing with similar feelings of fear and anger toward other politicians, as well, not just Trump.)
They’re just words, I tried telling myself as I continued my walk toward home.
They reminded me of the childhood remark my friends and I used to use when we were angry with someone: “I wish he’d take a long walk off a short pier.”
But I’m no longer a child, and they aren’t just words, just as Trump’s lies and fear-mongering racist speeches aren’t just words.
Words have power. They can become walls that imprison us in xenophobia, intolerance, and lies just as quickly as they can help us open doors, reach out in friendship, and spread the truth.
As Trump’s rhetoric grows more and more inflammatory, I believe it’s essential that we speak out against him and his intolerance, as well as against any others who attempt to spread fear and hatred.
Our yoga sages remind us that we must choose our words carefully so that we don’t fall into the trap of becoming intolerant ourselves, of letting our fear and anger overwhelm us as I did earlier this morning (or as I let it overwhelm me years ago as a child).
One way to help us choose what words come out of our mouths is to ask ourselves these three questions before we speak:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?
In a recent yoga class, my teacher invited us to practice with a sense of peace, something that’s easy to lose these days as the primaries begin, even while taking an early morning walk.
It was this class and my teacher’s lesson that helped remind me this morning that peace is something that we can create.
It’s not just a word but something more–a sense of quiet contentment that we can feel in moments when our lives are in balance.
Peace is always within our reach as long as we choose our words with care, and as long as we treat others with the same compassion and love that we want to be treated with ourselves.
Practice Journal: Have you ever said something that you regretted as soon as the words left your mouth? How does yoga help you become more mindful of your speech… and of the feelings of those with whom you disagree? Write: 10 min.