Purifying Speech

By  Vanessa Webb | 



"Everything owes its existence solely and completely to sound."
--from Cymatics by Nigel Stanford

Words understood by all great traditions, I wonder whether we comprehend how true the above quote actually is.

Years ago I read the timeless book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. Those of you who have read it will know that the First Agreement is: "Be Impeccable with your Word” - which we'll often try to do in prayer and mantra, otherwise it seems a mostly forgotten practice. Would the agony of trying to find just the right words for our prayers be relieved, if we attempted such an exercise in our daily exchanges? And if we practiced more frequently, would we be better at upholding our words when intensity increases?

This video by Nigel Stanford reminded me of the First Agreement, as well as an experience I had in India. Sitting on the cold stone floor is as pronounced in my memory as the experience itself for some reason. I had been taking a Mantra and Yogic Philosophy course at an ashram in northern India at the time; and all of us taking the class were fully consumed, leaning in to every grace filled word that Mataji was teaching.  But now we had just recited a mantra through the 108 beads of the mala before dropping into meditation.  And this was the experience: the space around me was undeniably filled with the 108 repetitions. I could feel my words as a palpable structure around me.  This was a breathtaking moment for me. I learned right then and right there, the power of speaking. What we choose to say, and how we say it, it becomes real - sound as the bridge from the unseen to the seen.

Toward the end of Stanford's video, the vibrations become increasingly intense, and we see the musicians adding a protective layer, isn’t this what we reach for when words become intense between people? Though an imaginary cloak, we do reach for it. When words become harsh and are entangled with another, we shield ourselves - the real impact of words coming from their creative force, not only from sound but their structure too. 

If we understand that we have a choice in what we say, then we also understand that we don’t really have an excuse to blurt out whatever toxic thing slithers off the tongue, not really. At this point in time are we willing to stop shooting bullets from our mouths…to reel the line in a bit and make what we say a personal challenge, before we begin addressing the bigger picture?

As an individual, how do we make it possible to listen to the words we speak? Is there a chance to speak more thoughtfully, so that we're familiar with doing so in the heat of the moment - to hold our words back long enough to consider the impact of what those words will create? Do we have the patience to slow down our inner reaction time, to give what we're about to say some consideration. Or, are we more attached to the whimsy of relieving ourselves in the moment, without a care for cause and effect. What if we were able to listen to our own self, to develop our internal dialogue, so we can speak things that are liberating rather than binding? How much impact would this have on creating both the personal and collective worlds we want to live in?


Anger isn't a reason to absolve ourselves of integrity - that's always a choice - and we'll find it intimately connected to listening with integrity. This is the heart's domaine. Most people won't speak from here… it’s vulnerable. Eventually, the vulnerability we perceive turns out to be the very backbone of our Being. If we’re going to repeat ourselves over and over and over again, then let’s challenge ourselves to speak courageously - that doesn't mean it's pretty, easy and comfortable, it can be quite ugly; but, it's respectful toward yourself and the other.  Are you up for the challenge of listening to your own words, knowing that sometimes they are uglier than others, some moments our best isn’t as pretty as other moments, and it can be exhausting; but, are you willing to shift reality from the unseen?


*image by jandre van der walt on unsplash