Stopit (Part 2)

My first installment of Stopits is going pretty well.

While I haven’t been completely successful with staying off the computer before 9 am and after 9 pm, I’m making more choices around it and feeling less controlled by the machine itself.

It’s time to add to the list.

There’s a big one (a really big one) and a little one.

Big one first:

1. Stop talking about other people.

For the next two weeks, I’ll be taking this to the extreme: not talking about other people regardless of the tone of the topic.

This has been brewing for a couple of months and stems from several things.

The seeds were planted when I read an article on Tricycle online (which unfortunately I cannot locate) about a man who has made a life practice of refraining: no talk about other people. He pointed to the value of silence, the general ridiculousness of talking about other people you may not even know (think: celebrities), let alone the damaging quality of gossip.

These seeds sprouted last week in a group situation gone awry (described in my interview with Teacher Goes Back To School, due out this week). I knew in that moment it was time to check my own entanglements with gossip, even that with a friendly tone.

And from our Teacher Training gathering this weekend, a bud emerged. The last three weeks were spent studying Ahimsa, the quality of non-violence, and now we move into Satya, or truthfulness.

The thoughtfulness and depth of discussion in the group inspired my beginner’s nature and reminded me of the discipline a mindful life requires.

So while the trainees are exploring truth and making discoveries that may be uncomfortable (as folks from last year’s group cried, “I never knew I was such a liar!”), I’ll watch my words with extra-special care. (Maybe Watchman Bill can help!)

Last night Bubby, bless his devil’s-advocate heart, was clarifying the terms of this two-week arrangement. This experiment doesn’t include practical information such as my mom needs a ride to the airport, or examples/experiences used for teaching purposes in TT (anonymous, of course). A general guideline is the three-fold filter often attributed to the Sufis: is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?

The more I thought about Bubby’s questioning (specifically, Why not eliminate only the negative talk?), I realized how I might use a positive comment about someone to position myself: to show how I’m close or “in the know” with that person, or even though they are doing well, I’m doing better, and how quickly a factual statement can trail off into I wonder why… or What if.

So, for these two weeks at least, the experiment will serve me best in its extreme.



2. Stop saying “was like.” As in, “She was like, no way!” or “It was like so cool!”

Which could be quite easy since I won’t be talking about anyone.

16 Responses to “Stopit (Part 2)”

  1. 1 Amy --- Just A Titch August 16, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    I love both of these. I think not talking about others is such a challenge! And like is my kryptonite. Eager to hear how these go.

  2. 2 Kelly Parkinson August 16, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    I love this: “is it true, is it kind, is it necessary.” Adding that to my editing backpack!

    I want to try the stop-talking-about-people rule, with a modification or two.
    I can say, “so-and-so said such-and-such.” A factual reporting of what they said or did. But I can’t interpret why I think they did or said it. Or put a label on what I think they did.
    I can report my reaction if it’s good and can help someone else.
    So, say, I can say, “I love Michelle! She has one of my favorite blogs!”
    (True, kind, and necessary that they read your blog.)
    But not interpreting the reasons why. Because how could I presume to know where you get your inspiration?

  3. 3 Bob August 17, 2010 at 1:00 am

    What you are doing (attempting?) is wonderful. Here’s a question though, what about listening to someone talk of someone else. Is listening a form of engagement? Do you steer the conversation elsewhere? How do you handle it?

    Also, I’ve been working with Right Speech since my retreat last month (I wrote of it in my blog). One challenge has been to listen to what others are saying (about someone else)… without judgement.

  4. 4 Kelley M August 17, 2010 at 1:32 am

    God Bless you Michelle. I have to admit that I might likely have nothing to say if it weren’t about someone else. Yikes. What a horrible thing to admit and put out here on your blog for everyone to see. How about if I join you and do my best to limit 50% or every other comment about someone else for the next two weeks to see how it feels and how big of a problem I actually have.

    Love and hugs. wish I was at yoga with you now. Had to get school supplies after first day at SFHS.

  5. 5 blogasana August 17, 2010 at 3:27 am

    thanks, friends! it’s already proving to be quite a challenge!!

    @amy – i’m already wondering how i will report back, like, will it be like going off a diet restriction and going crazy cuz you can? and clearly i can’t report about it for the next two weeks! hmm….

    @kelly – i love your modifications. very realistic and still totally within the frame of kindness and respect!! it reminds me (as i’ve thought of several times today) to say something TO the person instead of to someone else ABOUT the person.

    @bob – precisely. already a challenge. i had a huge dose of this last week. my current approach is to not engage and, if possible, steer the conversation elsewhere. i like your listening w/o judgement (even if listening to a judgement).

    @kelley – seriously, girl.. why do you think *I’m* doing it?!? 50% is awesome. we can compare notes at the end. wish i’d seen you out…we just got back from getting supplies too!

  6. 6 Frenzy36 August 18, 2010 at 12:45 am

    I think the idea of refraining from gossip is a noble idea. The rules however I think lead to cutting oneself off from others and that is a bad idea in my mind.

    I am on a fairly opposite quest, to communicate more and more with the people around me. Applying the idea of diversity into everyday conversations. Stop talking only to the same cast of characters – reaching out if nothing else that to just to brighten someone’s day.

  7. 7 kat August 18, 2010 at 2:06 am

    i am in the midst of this with you! i am tired of speaking about others, hearing about others. I realize i feel intimate with people in talking about the one not in the room.i would prefer to be intimate by sharing my direct experience and what the affect of the other is on me. Hmm is this true? yes, my heart leaps out with a big yes.

  8. 8 Diane August 18, 2010 at 5:02 am

    I think I agree with frenzy36….I often need to force myself to engage in conversation and fear that I could become quite reclusive without conversation that is with my friends and family.
    My hope is to be more there and present with all and especially friends and family. Hopefully this is rewarding to all of us.

  9. 9 blogasana August 18, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    @frenzy – i think we’re actually saying much the same thing. i too want to communicate more with the people around me, and expand that circle. and i want to talk to them, about them (or life, dreams, fears)—as @kat says, “to be intimate by sharing my direct experience and what the affect of the other is on me.”—rather than to them about someone else. i’m with you on diversity and brightening someone’s day! and for me, that’s not going to happen by talking about someone who’s not there.

    @kat – beautiful! keep us posted!

    @diane – yes – i agree! (see note to frenzy above)

  10. 10 Deborah King August 18, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    so now I’m constantly hearing, “it’s like” and “was like” … it’s become … like … you know … CRAZY!

    seriously, it’s time for that phrase to hit the dumpster.

  11. 12 Frenzy36 August 18, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I understand much better know. You do bring up the one area that I have been fighting with for awhile now in a different venue. You mentioned not even wanting to talk good about someone because it might have its roots in wishing for a return of some kind. I have the same problem when it comes to random acts of kindness. I believe they have to be 100% annonymous. The problem is how to you inspire others then.

    If you talk about items you do then it might seem as you are doing them for the praise of others, see my point. A friend says he felt the same way until one incident. He sponsored the creation of a new well in an African community and kept it to himself. Later though he was told that well was now supporting two new schools and over 700 people. The local resource encouraged him to spread the word to others.

    Grrr I am still of two minds on this. I do know if I ever create a blog my first three articles will deal with the matter :)

  12. 13 Geanette August 23, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Applause!!! Can’t wait for the feedback. I’ve made my own secret mission to practice this of late (the: “no talk about other people”)… you calling it out gave me the inspiration to be serious about it and hold myself accountable.

    Thanks for sharing!


  13. 15 katsith August 28, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Thank you, Michelle. Not only am I feeling inspired by your blog and current intention but also by all of the comments posted by others. So thanks to everyone for helping me feel a sense of community and belief in the goodness in all beings.

  1. 1 It’s All Yoga. {Seriously} – An Interview with Michelle Marlahan – PART 2 – Getting Down to Business « Teacher Goes Back to School Trackback on September 7, 2010 at 2:36 am

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