Dharma talking and Rationing Speech


Language has always been a fascination of mine. I love words, how we use them, what we use them for, the power and fluidity of words and how much both healing and damage occurs from the use of words.

Lately I have been concentrating on how humans interact using language and I noticed some interesting dynamics happening. I attribute noticing these dynamics to the study and practice of conditioned mind and daily meditation. 

My focus became my use of language overall, and a curiosity concerning what process is used to engage speaking. I started asking “How am I communicating?” I have productive and positive  conversations with friends and I enjoy exchanging information with people. Yet, something kept telling me that I needed to look at exactly what I was doing in my process of communication. The content was being viewed as OK but the overall process was ringing bells. I think the whole interest was triggered by a book I read on conversational narcissism titled,  The Pursuit of Attention by Charles Derber. That, and I have been engaged with the concept of privileged white males and the workings of acting and speaking in ways that my conditioning hides from me.

I think another drive was my fascination with Conditioned mind and how so much of what I do and say is done out of conditioning and not out of awareness. So, considering a number of factors it seems that my speech would be a great place to examine.

I learned a concept years ago that points to how we are spending our words and the need to place value on them if we are to spend them well. I really appreciate the idea that we spend our words. The use of language is an incredible skill and I was started to see I was taking it for granted. It reminds me a little of how Zen started to direct me back to the appreciation of noticing the breathing cycle even though on another level breathing is just another automatic function. While examining my speech I could see how I was conditioned to ignore  placing value on neither the content of what I was saying or the process.

I decided to start to hone into when, why, how, and what intent I had for spending my words in conversations. I saw that most of the time I wasn’t actually using speech as much as I was leaking words. The dynamics of conversations started to become more apparent and I saw that many times I was vying for attention and status within the conversational field. Ego was playing a larger role in my communications than I had been aware of before making the effort of a specific awareness.

I made the vow to start practicing Rationing speech. Ration in the verbal sense, allowing myself to spend my words with the perspective that I only have so many to spend. I had read that, all things being even, about 30,000 days worth. Give or take since that’s the average amount of a human life. When my experience living is over my words will be done and so I think perhaps it’s time to make some changes. (Of course, you can use the same logic of limited time to use as many words as you possibly can in that amount of time, there is no right or wrong evaluation. Choices abound!)

Rationing my Words

Perhaps not the best use of terminology for the concept but it’ll work. I examined my communication skills and really honed down on how I was exchanging information. I noticed a few things. I love to talk. That is not a critique. I do. And, I know that I can be an aware speaker if I start taking that brief instant and start examining my INTENT.  I found in staying aware of intent, I was able to remain spontaneous in my responses. Yet, they were still honed and directed towards a specific area.

Many of the Buddha’s spoke of using awareness of intent and I am seeing it as useful. It was fun to watch how many times I made statements but had no idea of what the intent of making the statements was at the time. It seemed as though I was talking but had no awareness of intent and therefor no rationale for speaking. I was talking just to talk. (And, it’s OK just to talk for talking sake.) Perhaps it was fun and enjoyable or at least my memory says it was. The actual remembrance is that it was “Supposed to be fun,” but I think it’s more fun to have engaged meaningful conversation than to talk to engage. Engaging for the sole reason of social interaction seemed it was very much my Conditioned mind rambling on and on. At this point in my journey I don’t think that I’m going to invest much time in it anymore.


  1. Listening to others, internally repeating,  and reflecting what is being said. Then I ask questions if I think the information is unclear.
  2. Give others space. Let the conversation breathe at it’s own pace.
  3. Before responding, spend that extra moment to examine my motive and intent for  saying what has come up.
  4. Is it Kind?
  5. Is it helpful to the conversation?
  6. Is it supportive?


  1. How am I going to speak? We convey so much with tonal quality, inflections, and volume.
  2. Am I using appropriate words?
  3. Am I speaking clearly?
  4. Is the subject clear and concise?

I can hear people saying, “Is he crazy? Who’s going to go through all that before they say something?” I understand. I think it’s not as much as it seems when it’s written out. After applying this formula to interactions for a few weeks it’s automatic, quick, and comfortable. And, it’s noticeable when I am speaking unaware of the above components.

It is not demanding that I am attending to my speech, it’s different and a way to greater awareness. I am starting to feel that in the long run this is going to open some doors in my understanding of myself, the people I interact with, and the way I operate in the world. I found it easier to take that second and contemplate my next thought rather than the usual conditioned minds game of thinking of what to say next while pretending to listen. So far it feels apposite to be making an effort when speaking to focus awareness on the act. It feels more complete when I am speaking.

How do you see yourself as a part of any exchange? Do you think that examining how we engage verbally with others is something that is valuable?

I’ll update as I continue on this path. 

Be well and many bows!







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