How did “Right Thought, Right Speech and Right Action,” the phrase that you say at the end of all of your classes, come about?
I heard the Kent Bond of Willow Glen Yoga say “Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action” in the late nineties when I was attending his classes very regularly. That phrase felt essential to my personal practice. Upon a little research, I learned that the words encompass three main ideas inherent in the very useful Buddhist Noble Eight Fold Path (which you can look up for further elaboration). I added the phrases below over a period of several years.
“Right Thought. May we be steady, present and joyful.”
Stirham, Sukham Asanam (YS 2.46). The posture must be steady and grounded in comfort, ease, or in some translations, joy. In order for those two to be possible, we must be present. Every moment of every day we’re in a posture, or shape, of some sort, whether we’re aware of it or not. So the yoga practice is about being present for this moment and for the next. It’s about being really here, and rooting ourselves to the present (since there is, in essence, very little to hold onto) as a means of establishing steadiness. Being present to the the ridiculous odds of being alive right now at this very moment is a simple means of experiencing joy.
“Right Speech. May our words improve upon the silence.”
They say that silence is golden. And if you’ve been on a silent retreat, you know this to be true. We’re often afraid of silence, but that space is precious to a yoga practitioner. Out of it arises everything. Thought is incessant. Thoughts so easily leads to words. Words are the pillars upon which actions are built. Before we know it, we’ve created a world largely of our own making. We know how easy it is to slip into talk that does more harm than good. I use this phrase to remind myself daily to use words well, because it’s so easy to forget. Words are energy. Restraint of opinion, gossip, judgement and small talk is a powerful expression of non-violence and a tenet of the practice.
“Right Action. May we be the change we wish to see.”
On the way home from India in 2007, while in the airport in Delhi, there was a billboard with one of Gandhi’s most famous phrases, “Be the change you wish to see.” Right action means acting with kindness and compassion, telling the truth, being as non-violent as possible, and leaving every proverbial room cleaner than we found it. And each infinitesimal action counts. Being useful in whatever seemingly tiny way is method of meeting the sometimes overwhelming suffering of the world.
I’ve been saying these words at the end of each and every practice to remind myself daily ever since. Thank you for asking.