There’s a secret to happiness.
You are born with it.
It whispers to you from deep within. But most of the time you can’t hear it.
The still, small, voice gets drowned out by the din of life around you.
You’ve heard it murmur.
You know there must be something you can do to uncover your secret. Something that takes awareness but not hours and hours of effort.
You’re right. You do this by becoming aware – in a new way – of something you do all day, every day.
You do it by learning to speak from your calm core.
Learning to speak from your core is simple, once you become aware of two things.
First Awareness: Your Speech is a Physical Act
Speaking is a physical act of arising – speech rises through different parts of your body. Most of the time you’re not aware of this.
When you have something important to say – especially in response to beauty, goodness, or love – your words arise from a different place in your body than if you speak in anger. Have you noticed this?
If you have children or beloved pets you know this. Think of the words of affection that gurgle up from your depths when you express them to your children or pets. Compare that to what you notice in your body when your kids or pets have done something annoying and you express your irritation to them.
Words spoken from affection, from your core, have a different tone, quality, and are lower in register than words spoken in irritation. You speak more slowly when your words are joyful or loving.
That relationship between the depth and slowness of your words and the place of origin of your speech has long been known.
Words spoken in anger or irritation rush out from your mouth. The poet Homer, writing over two thousand years ago, described words that form in your mouth versus those that rise from your depths as “escaping the barrier of your teeth.”
Your words escape – rush away from you without thought – hurtle out without consideration for their effect – on the listener or on yourself.
In contrast, when you feel or know something deep inside your body, your words arise from that deep down place. Literally they rise from your core. You can feel them form below your navel, and they rise up along your spine, through your heart, into and through your throat, and then out through your mouth and teeth, carried on your breath.
There are physical reasons for this.
When you are irritated, your body tenses – the muscles all throughout your body tighten. This tension starts deep within your body, in your core muscles – the ones that attach to your spine in your pelvis and abdomen. Then the tension rises up into the muscles of your chest, throat, and face. You become cut off from your core.
This affects your speech. Your voice is tighter and more shrill because of tension in your chest, neck, and mouth. The lower realms of your body from which your speech could arise are constricted. Your breath is also constricted by the tension in your diaphragm.
When you are upset you speak from your "shallows," the parts of your body nearest to your mouth from which your words exit. Your depths aren’t accessible.
When love and affection move you to speech, your core stays soft. That softness keeps tension from climbing into your chest, neck, and face. Your breath is easier and longer. Your words arise from your depths unhindered by tension along your spine. Because your neck, throat, and tongue are soft, your voice is deeper and more vibrant.
Sticks and Stones Can Break Your Bones; Words Can also Harm You.
Your speech is a fundamental part of you. Your words shape your thoughts about yourself and others. Your relationships to all people and all things are possible because of speech. Your words allow you to know yourself – to articulate your experiences and relationships, to reflect upon them, and share yourself with others.
Through practice with your speech you engage, in small ways, thoughout your day, in non-harming [ahimsa] – for both yourself and others.
Because relationships are of primary importance in your life, when you tend them and deepen them with careful speech, speaking from your core – you become happier – that’s the secret you uncover.
Words are more likely to cause harm than sticks and stones because words are more powerful than sticks and stones. We throw words more often than sticks and stones, and we hurl them with far greater effect.
Speech and Vitality
When you practice with your words, you cultivate your vitality.
In contrast, when you waste your words, you squander your energy. That’s one of the reasons you feel so depleted – after the adrenaline rush has passed – when you have spoken in anger with the words rushing out from your shallows.
When you speak from your core, when your words rise up majestically from your depths, you feel full and energized. As your vitality grows, so does your ability to be aware of yourself and your relationships. This in turn nourishes you and your relationships.
Your thoughts uncloud, your decisions become clearer, and your actions become straightforward.
All of this takes place in your body, inside of which your words and thoughts arise.
The Four Gates of Speech and Your Calm Core
There are four gates of speech that lead to your calm core. Using them has become a popular practice in the last few years. There is some dispute about the origin of the practice – some say it is Sufi, some Yogic, some Buddhist.
All of these traditions as well as the Christian tradition have versions of the practice. The wisdom of it crosses philosophical and theological boundaries of time and place.
To practice with the Four Gates is to practice with pauses. The gates are Thresholds rather than barriers. They are meant to give you pause for reflection before you speak.
In this way you become conscious of your thoughts as well as of the words you choose to convey your thoughts.
The more conscious you are of your thoughts and speech, the greater your clarity in decision making. The more vitality you cultivate, and more ease you have in your communications with yourself and others.
The practice is simple and becomes automatic over time.
How to Practice with the Four Gates
Before speaking, pause, and ask yourself these four questions about what you want to say:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it beneficial to all concerned? [in the conversation]
4. Is this the right time to speak these words?
If your answer to each of these questions is “yes,” then speak. If not, then be silent. These questions together are called the “four gates” of speech.
It may surprise you to find how much of what you want to say will not pass through all four gates.
You will also discover how often silence serves the purposes of truth and clarity in the moment. Often when you wait to speak, pausing at the fourth gate – speaking only if this is the right time – your words are more effective and the outcome more beneficial to all.
Speaking From Your Core Liberates the Real You
Practicing with speech is powerful. Its power lies in the many opportunities you have to practice each day, and in the fact that you are attending carefully to something you are intimately familiar with – your words and your voice.
Day by day, bit by bit, as you remember to pause, reflect, speak thoughtfully and clearly, you will notice a new ease in your body and in your mind.
Your thoughts will become less jumbled, and your words and actions clearer and more decisive. You will find new interest and sweetness in your relationships with people you know and things you cherish.
The secret to your happiness will no longer be a secret. You will know how to cultivate your own happiness – connecting to your calm core through the gates of your speech. You will begin to liberate the Real You who is calm, contented, and at ease with the way you communicate.
If you enjoy this practice and are interested in learning other practices that connect you to your calm core and liberate the You who is contented and joyful, enroll in my online course and receive weekly group coaching or personal, individual coaching.