Skip to content

The Unstruck Sounds: Don’t Let Yourself Become Breathless When You Speak

November 2, 2009

The Breath of Life & Meaning

The Breath of Life & Meaning

Many of us when we speak lose ourselves in our impulse to make a point or win an argument. As a result, we try to say too much too quickly. Sometimes we try to say as much as we can before we are interrupted. At other times we just get get carried away expressing our thoughts or feelings. In doing so we often find ourselves still speaking when we simply don’t have enough breath left to support our voice. When this happens we quickly find ourselves grasping (or even gasping) for air. This grasping creates unnecessary tension not only in our minds and emotions, but also in our diaphragm, chest, back, belly, and so on, tension that not only undermines our breathing but also our communication with others. A voice deprived of the full power of the breath does not carry the harmonic nuances and subtleties that are such an important part of the spoken word. Such a voice is no longer connected with the deep silence that gives meaning to our words.


Next time you find yourself in a discussion or giving a speech, take your time as you speak. If you sense that you are about to run out of breath, simply stop what you are saying and let yourself breathe for a breath or two, paying attention to the silent pause at the end of your out-breath. Rest there, recollect yourself, before continuing on. These pauses are not only good for your breathing, they are also good for your soul. They give you an opportunity to come home to yourself and see if what you are saying is worth saying and what you really wish to say.

It is important to realize that the very same same principles generally apply when you are writing articles, books, e-mail messages, discussion posts, and so on. As you think to yourself and write, you can also run out of breath and lose your connection with silence. Long concentration at your computer, typewriter, or note pad can constrict your diaphragm and result in fast upper chest breathing and insufficient oxygen to your brain and body.

Finally, does what you say and write spring from deep within, from silence? Does it help you and others reflect on what is important? Or is it simply a mechanical, associative expression of “like and dislike” or of self-love or vanity? As you learn to listen to yourself impartially as you speak and write, your words will reconnect with silence and thus carry new energy and meaning. You will discover a new breadth of both discernment and openness.

This is what I have discovered in my own life. It isn’t always easy for me to listen to what I say and how I say it (sometimes it’s nearly impossible), but such listening brings me a greater appreciation and wonder for the “unstruck sounds”* that lie at the heart of being. It is the unstruck sounds that bring real meaning and substance not just to our words but also to our lives.

Copyright 2009 by Dennis Lewis

*From Rumi, Unseen Rain (Threshold Books, 1986, p. 12): “Listen to the unstruck sounds, and what sifts through that music.”

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: