It can take courage to speak out – whether for your rights, your opinions, or for something in which you believe deeply and something you know about that not everyone does. The key to speaking with certainty and integrity is to know that what you’re saying comes from deep within you, from the core of who you are where your truth lives. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you take the stage or take a stand. And don’t just ask: wait for the answers that will well up if you’re patient. Writing in a journal is a wonderful way to access the wisdom you carry around already, and get your own customized responses to the queries that will make you speak powerfully and passionately.
- What are my values? . . . Sometimes all it takes to know what to do or say is to call up your personal values. And because values can change, deepen, and mature, “What are my values?” is an important question to ask yourself periodically – on your birthday perhaps, or at the New Year. It’s both liberating and motivating to be so well acquainted with your values that you could recite them on demand. My husband was working with this question and announced, “My values spell ditch: discretion, integrity, tolerance, civility, humility.” He was so pleased with his discovery that he had a bracelet made with his values engraved on it. You may want to do something similar, but as long as your values are engraved on your psyche and acted on in your life, that’s enough.
- What does my body have to say about this? … We come from a culture that has long mistrusted the physical body. It’s been seen as the stepchild of the soul, a necessary evil, a confusing juxtaposition of God’s handiwork and the devil’s playground. It is, rather, a vortex of intelligence. Every cell and the millions of atoms comprising each one come equipped with awareness. Your body has something in the neighborhood of 40 trillion cells – that’s quite a consulting committee. Call on it when you’re confused or undecided as to what to say or how to say it. Get in a quiet, relaxed state and ask what your body has to say about staying in the relationship, taking on the volunteer commitment, or moving to another city. Then scan your body and note its sensations. Around the area of your heart, are you picking up the excitement that says “Yes!” even if there’s also a little anxiety about doing something new? Or in your abdominal region, are you feeling something more akin to dread, the fabled “gut reaction” telling you to take another path?
- What am I not seeing? … We all live with blinders on. They come with having a personal vantage point. And yet the answer to a how-to-say-what-I-need-to-say dilemma may lie in seeing just another millimeter of the situation. Ask, then, what you’re not seeing here. This is not a request for superhuman sight, just a slightly broader view. Often, what we’re not seeing is what we don’t want to see. Let’s say you want to talk with your boss about your discomfort on the job. If you were to see just a bit more of the picture, you might learn (or remember) that the problem isn’t the job per se, but that this job isn’t utilizing a talent you’re yearning to express. Once you see that, you can speak with surgical precision, saying what you need to say without making the other person wrong.
- What really matters here? … What’s the priority, the unaccessorized significance in this circumstance? In his classic of the spiritual life, At the Feet of the Master, Krishnamurti writes that as we mature internally, it’s essential to discern not just right from wrong, but more important from less important. Whether it’s making your to-do list for the day and prioritizing its entries, or figuring out which impromptu demands you can tend to in this twenty-hour period and which ones will have to wait, you need to engage in this discernment, to ask yourself what really matters. Generally speaking, things with feelings – i.e., living beings, particularly those closest to you – will take precedence. You’ll learn what’s of greatest consequence to you, in this particular instance, by asking yourself what really matters.
- Is this a situation in which speaking out right now is the thing to do, or am I better to step back and give Life room to move? … Ask this, expecting to get a sense of what is yours to do and say and what isn’t. This is the advanced class of enlightened living. You can probably count on your fingers of one hand the number of times you’ve taken an action that was, in itself, wrongheaded, absurd, or unconscionable. Countless times, however, we’ve all acted too soon or without sufficient information, or we’ve stepped in where our input wasn’t needed, and we muddied circumstances that were already working themselves out. When you ask yourself, quietly and confidently, what your part is in a given situation, and where to wait (or exit entirely), you’ll get a clear idea of your role. If you ask the question and you still want to barge in and act against the advice of your internal coach, remind yourself that, although life is a series of little dramas, none of them needs a drama queen.
Victoria Moran is the founder and director of Main Street Vegan Academy, and the author of a dozen books including Creating a Charmed Life and Main Street Vegan. She hosts the Main Street Vegan Podcast, nominated in the “Favorite Podcast” category for the VegNews’ 2016 Veggie Awards. Please vote for your favorite veggie everything at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/veggieawards.