Issue 20;


On Mindful Communication

By Francis Checkley AnRyu ChiU

The Oxford Thesaurus gives the alternatives to Mindful Communication as "Conscious Transmission".
Another word for communication is CONTACT and for conscious," ALIVE or ALERT". Alive, conscious transmission immediately brings to mind the very ordinary but quite special communication of  Dokusan. During this encounter, sometimes there is very little verbal communication and yet these meetings often live on in our memory as exalted states, of a conscious transmission of wisdom we may struggle to put into words. This intimate face to face contact after sometimes days of meditation reminds us of our supreme good fortune in having a human body. Our embodied state may not always be comfortable but it is the only state which allows us the opportunity for realisation. Mind depends on body, and vice versa because of  the belief in western philosophy of a soul capable of living independently of the body, the body/mind split has been a source of endless debate.  
In Zen, this is not a problem. Mind is body, body is mind or as Suzuki Roshi said when speaking of the body-mind conundrum, "not two, not one". Each of our six 'sense doors' continuously give us data of six different kinds: form, sound, smell, taste, touch and consciousness, with each
sense door opening us to a different world of experience.
For the Buddha, realisation came through seeing something. Our other senses however may  also awaken us to our inter-connection with all of life, to the realisation that we were never anything other than unified with it from the beginning.
I think it was the writer Alan Watts who spoke of our sense of separateness and alienation from life as being the result of our diminished awareness as "skin encapsulated egos". Our true body, our true self however transcends such boundaries.
The physical body is part of the physical world. The wisdom we aspire to is not just in the body it is co-functioning with the world around it; embedded in our awareness. Our environment is continually offering us the opportunity to reach out and touch which we have often come to
believe is separate from us. Simple words of kindness, a please or thank you to our partner, the shop clerk, the bus driver to those who are busy or stressed, to anyone we sense is troubled, caught up in their sub- jective circlings.
It is just so easy to feel alone, depressed, overwhelmed in our daily lives. Our hospitals, hospices,  residential and nursing homes are brimming over with human beings who feel forgotten, unwanted, lonely and often uncared for. Knowing this, we can consciously communicate our kindness, our gladness to be in their company by simply touching their hand, putting our arm around their shoulder. In this instance, our touch may be the catalyst which awakens them from a sense of sadness they may have struggled with since the death of a partner/spouse. And it may be this simple opening to the actuality of their life, this momentary awareness of being valued which releases them from their suffering.
Nowadays it is quite commonplace in care homes for older people to receive care and kindness as it is consciously transmitted through the art of massage. In this way both parties involved are  allowed the healing benefits of giving and receiving, of letting go and relaxing, of allowing a
spaciousness of mind which gives rise to, however momentarily, a certain sense of gladness to be alive.
For those who are profoundly deaf, Conscious Communication often comes through the medium of sign language. To witness this is to recognise just how important our bodies can be in expressing meaning. It is as if every part of the body is in constant movement, transmission is direct and
physical. Those persons who are challenged in this way, who can so easily feel alone and isolated may, with training, transcend such limitation and share friendship with their peers.
Because until quite recently much  of our communication as human beings has been carried out in close proximity to one another, our language contains many words and phrases which revealour intuitive understanding of the body-mind correspondence because of this we speak of being "face to face",  "seeing eye to eye" feeling "in touch" with someone or "out of touch".
Recently, a journalist visiting the Dalai Lama to conduct an interview was quite bemused and just a little unnerved when his host not only shook his hand on greeting him, but continued to hold his hand throughout the interview. They were quite literally, continuously "in touch".
Gradually, the journalist was able to relax into the intimacy of being together and the interview proceeded far better than he had expected.
The more we are "in touch" with our inner landscape, which for most of us is an environment of such stark contrasts, the less we may be tempted to run for the hills, or do battle. With just this small insight we may hope for some degree of success.
"Our hearts were made to bleed" Reb has said. How easy it can be to hurt someone’s feelings despite having no conscious intention to do so.  It begs the question as to the degree we are responsible for the effects of our speech? Is it any wonder that communication breakdown is so common? And yet we must try! With our partners/spouses, our children, friends, colleagues, bosses, with those nearby, and those who are separated from us  by huge distances.
 And so to the joys and tribulations of cyber communication, of e-mails, blogs, tweets, etc.: its convenience, and some would argue its absolute necessity.
As many of you know, I tend not to use this form of communication, or if I do, as little as  possible. Undoubtedly it can be convenient and it is self-evident that it is becoming faster by  the day, but could the acceleration and quantity of messaging be the cause of so much
When communicating verbally with someone face to face, we are continually receiving, storing, evaluating perhaps thousands of cues:( the look in the eyes, facial expression, comportment, tone of voice, pauses in their speech, the intensity or otherwise of their general demeanour)
and many more factors which we receive subliminally before responding.
Even on the telephone, conscious listening to both what is said as well as not said provides us with so much more than any rushed e-mail can give us. Maybe any real success with  electronic messaging and the like if it is to approach the potential of face to face embodied communication will depend on us realising that these things cannot be rushed. We all need to slow down, develop patience, understanding and a willingness to forgive if we feel
offended when receiving a communication. Not an easy task by any means.
Some possible ways forward: ---
--- That all involved have a clear  purpose and intention for the communication.
--- An adherence to precepts so that everyone feels respected, honoured and valued.
--- That however 'noble' the perceived end, it does not justify the means being less so.
--- That any perceived  conflict is addressed fully before moving on.
--- That there is a conscious admission that misunderstanding will occur rather than a climate of denial where those involved avoid the opportunity for creative conflict.
---  Recognising that slow and easy is sometimes preferable to Fast and Furious.
---  The use of video and skypeing so as to visually "embody"  the communication more fully.

I offer the above while recognising that any kind of inter-personal  communication is
fraught with the potential for misunderstanding , and wish us all the necessary wisdom
needed to fulfil our goals.
Deep bows to all.

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