Thinking about words...how, when, why and with whom, has been a more affectionate encounter in adulthood: Now, I dance...and, at times, words dance too.
My early memory of words was activated by David Suissa's article "Hugging Our Words" (Jewish Journal, October 28-November 3, 2016, p.8). Suissa beautifully captures and summarizes a traditionally Jewish holiday ritual with what I perceive as the mindfulness of words. On the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, Jews hug the Torah scroll (Hebrew Bible scroll), dance with it, delight in it, embrace it with heartfulness. As he notes, these approximately 300,000 Hebrew letters have informed, shaped, and provided sustenance to Jews across generations and cultures.
Suissa connects this ritual to a truth about words: They are powerful. They have the potential to hurt, coarsen, humiliate, destroy, betray...They also have the potential to carry love, warmth, affirmation, belonging, refinement, kindness, honor and trust. And, the greater our verbal repertoire, the greater ability we have to find the fullness of meanings in our experiences and expressions. From our own personal lives, to the public domains, discourse informs and creates states of being. Suissa provides a beautiful imagery to assist us in assessing our own use of words by posing the following question: "Imagine if you took all the words you used in the past year and printed them on a scroll. Would you hug this scroll? Would you dance with it? Would you cherish it?" (Suissa, P. 8)
We can also extend this assessment to the words/language- and therefore thoughts and experiences- we invite for ourselves in various forms of media and entertainment: (political, film, music, arts). Would we cherish them? Pass them down to our children? Hug them? Are they worthy of entering into our consciousness, impacting our minds, bodies and spirit?
As you think about words, you can engage in a mindfulness activity: What do you feel when certain words are spoken? What do you experience in mind, body, heart when someone gossips about another? What do you experience when you hear/speak unkind, vitriolic, or inflammatory rhetoric? What images, feelings do you experience with words that reflect dignity, honesty, and care? What does it feel like to hear kind words, soft words, gentle words?
Since I love to dance, the idea of words dancing resonates: Bringing forth in our speech-as we do in our bodies in dance- authenticity, presence and spontaneous flow of the self; how nice it feels! And,how good it is when we can share ourselves and receive others authentically, with presence, and a sensitivity to our dance (conversation) partner(s) and the broader dance room floor (cultures and sub-cultures).
May our words dance, at least most of the time. And, when they are not dancing, when they are tired, fatigued, upset or questioning...may we sit with them, not push them away, not judge them, not react to them; rather, acknowledge them, let them be, maybe even hug them, or share them with a friend. For it will not be long when they will return to their vitality and potentiality of life-affirming states...Eager, curious and open to their next tango of sorts.