Mental health, Wellness

The power of positive thinking through right speech

June 9, 2013
Power of Positive Thinking

My initial, shallow curiosity of Buddhism began with a class in college around the philosophy of religion. While most of my classmates slept, my impressionable college mind became intrigued by Buddhism’s intrinsic connection with the suppression of ego and mindfulness. Not only that, but I examined the many ways it is both different and similar to the religion I was raised to believe, Catholicism. One of the big differences is Buddhism does not require worship to a God, instead there is a concept of abiding a universal law, or a series of truths.

Along with the Four Noble Truths, one of the principal teachings of Buddhism is the Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. The path details a way of living to end suffering and achieve the sublime state of Nirvana, or self-awakening. Not meant to be understood as sequential steps, the aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path intend an interdependent relationship with each other. Meditating on elements of the path and other Buddhist philosophies often bring me great benefits like deepening self-knowledge and working to disband the illusion of ego.

The factor that always stands out to me was right speech. As the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path, it iterates speaking in a truthful and non-hurtful way. In many ways, I think this is why I always enjoy writing. It allows for more time to construct and deliver thoughts. But even then, I constantly consider whether there is a better way to convey my ideas.

Right speech eightfold path

I was further reminded by this principle after a particularly stressful week at work. My co-worker recognized she was thinking negative thoughts about some of the people she was working with on various projects. Rather than allowing those thoughts to strangle her mind and say them aloud, she replaced her negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Whether she realized it or not, she channeled right speech when composing short positive notes to each member of our team. By thinking and saying positive thoughts about and to others, you can gradually create a positive change in the person, but also in yourself.

Her actions reminded me of the adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Nothing affects workplace morale more than persistent negativity. It sucks the energy out of the people around you and diverts attention from the work. I can only speak for myself, but that short note significantly affected the way I charged through the rest of my day.

What other ways can you integrate right speech and the eightfold path into your communications with others and yourself?

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  • Sameer Khandelwal

    Colleen, thank you for yet another deep and thought-provoking post. I like the ‘inter-connectedness’ of the Eight-fold path. There is elegance in the fluidity of one path transitioning into the other – almost like there are no boundaries. It resonated for me in your co-workers example. She had to embark on all 8 paths to shed negative emotions and create a cycle of positivity.

    Right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration — Although the specific path that manifested itself into the visible spectrum was right speech, could your co-worker have channeled positivity without holding the right view, aspiration (to create positive change), action (to not react by venting or sending frownie faces, and instead choose to write a note), right speech (despite her initial demeanor, she resisted negativity & nonchalant name-calling to translate positive thoughts into words), mindfulness (resisting sarcasm), and concentration. Except perhaps the last path of livelihood (though she likes her job enough to not quit in the face of adversity).

    There goes my plan to market a magic eight ball fashioned on the Eight-paths – thank you interconnectedness for making simple discrete choices into a complex circle of choices.

    P.S: Thank you for not snoozing in Buddhism class 🙂 You saved me a fortune in faulty Buddhist eight-path balls.

    • Thanks, Sameer! You make such a great point.

      By the way, it’s really great to hear from you. I hope you’re doing well. I keep seeing all those pizza and beer check-ins in California on Facebook, and I get jealous!