NOTE: The author of this blog, Robert Rabbin recently passed away and our planet has most definitely lost a wonderful light. Please enjoy some these last teachings from Robert.
Mindfulness refers to our capacity to see, understand, and relate to what is actually happening, rather than what we think is happening. That is why we practice mindfulness “techniques” — to nurture our capacity. The greater our capacity, the more mindful and aware we are, the more real and authentic we can be! Welcome to actual life!
I first encountered “mindfulness” in 1968 when I began studying aikido and zazen. I followed up this introduction with a month-long Vipassana retreat, in Madras, India, led by the Burmese teacher Satya Narayan Goenka. The retreat was a 24/7 furnace of “paying attention to one’s breath and to every movement within one’s mind and body.” We were discouraged from sleeping more than a couple hours a night.
Then, barely a few weeks after surviving Goenka’s retreat, I walked into the ashram of one Swami Muktananda, a meditation master and living embodiment of mindfulness. I lived with him for 11 years! I left Muktananda’s ashram in January 1985; by then the practice of mindfulness had become my life.
How does mindfulness connect to our public speaking — bearing in mind that I define public speaking as speaking with anyone other than oneself?
You’ll agree that every time we speak, we produce an effect in the minds and hearts of our listeners, our audience. They will think and feel something, and maybe even be inspired to do something, all as a result of our speaking. These are the effects we produce every time we speak. Now, I ask you: do you produce conscious, intentional, purposeful effects when you speak, or do you produce random, what the hell did I just say, hope for the best effects?
Mindfulness in public speaking refers to our capacity to produce conscious, intentional, purposeful effects when we speak. OK, so how do we do that?
I had always been a good, effective speaker, though I was an “unconscious competent.” That is, I was not consciously aware of how and why I was a confident, competent, often inspirational, speaker. One day, I decided to become a consciously competent speaker, so I could help others become more authentic, effective speakers. I deconstructed my style of speaking. I looked closely and carefully at how I spoke. I made a few pages of notes.
From that beginning was born Speaking Truthfully, the work I have done for the past 12 years. My approach to public speaking is unique, precisely because of my lifelong cultivation of mindfulness. I discovered that my prowess in speaking was largely due to the fact that I melded mindfulness with speaking in real time. I realized that most people are completely unconscious when they speak. They do not have conscious awareness of what they say and how they say it while they are speaking. Of course not: we’ve never learned how. Yes, we all have acquired language and learned how to use it in a rudimentary fashion. But we’ve never learned the science, art, and skill of authentic public speaking the way I do it and the way I teach it!
What do we have to work with? Two things: what we say, and how we say it. What we say is called content, our message, the words and perhaps images we use to communicate information and our POV. I’ll leave that alone for now, as that is in itself another article. Information is important, yes. However, information is giving out; communication is getting through! Often, it is how we say what we say that gets through.
What, then, are the various elements we have at our disposal to use in a mindful way? We have our inner state of being; our psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Are we speaking our truth and showing others who we are? Does our presence alone, in and of itself, say something important? Are we spewing ideas and beliefs that do not reflect our inner truth, our heart, our authentic self? Are we suppressing our emotions so as to appear, well, emotionless? Are we selling some fabricated persona that we think might make a good impression?
The speaking instrument also comprises our actual physical body and the many ways we can use it mindfully to support our speaking. We have our posture, our gestures, our facial expressions. We have our movement on a stage, or in front of a room. We have the strength with which we say our words, the volume and degree of projection. We have the rate and pace of our words. We have pauses and silence. We have a light in our eyes. We have our smile and laughter. We have our softness and tears. We have our shakti, our life force.
We have the degree of our connection, to both our own self and to our audience. Are we hiding and pretending, or do we show up fully transparent and vulnerable? Do we make natural, sustained eye contact with people, so as to facilitate human connection? Are we speaking with confidence and self-assuredness, or are we speaking timidly, undercutting our credibility with self-doubt?
And, where are we speaking from? From a rehearsed, prepared script that lives in our mind, or from a deeper and truer place within us? Are we simply venting or ranting, or are we speaking with awareness of each word as they arise from our creative source and center?
Bottom line? Mindfulness in public speaking requires that we show up, plant our feet on the ground, look people in the eyes, and tell the truth. No hiding, posturing, pretending. No deception, half-truths, or statements we don’t believe. If we speak truthfully and mindfully, people will listen. Our life will glow. Our work will thrive. Our heart will sing. Our spirit will soar. We will be a blessing to ourselves and to others.
Bio: Robert Rabbin is a radically brilliant speaker and authentic public speaking guru. For more information about Robert’s programs and products, please visit his website.