We come from a "quiet learning" society where "shhhh" is the rule. If you drop a book in a university library, people jump as if a bomb went off. Contrast this with a rabbinic study hall, where you're greeted by a rippling sea of sound. The uninitiated often ask: "How can these people learn with so much noise?!"
It's all a matter of habit. A country boy finds it difficult to sleep in the city because there's too much noise. Yet the city boy who visits the country also can't sleep – because the quiet is mind-racking!
Arichat sfatayim literally means "arrange it on your lips." To gain more clarity and wisdom, try saying things out loud.
Sometimes you'll see a person walking down the street talking to himself. Do you recall ever doing this yourself? When? Why? It's a powerful concentration technique.
Every person has a mantra. The mantra is your particular music, your individual joy of life. Particularly in learning, there's a certain musical rhythm that draws you deeper into the learning. If you study long enough, you'll get in touch with this tune. It is a tremendous help to get your engine moving. Start with your tune ... and you're in!
If you're reading, and have difficulty staying focused, start reading slowly out loud and you'll find it brings you right into contact. Whatever you're reading – even a simple newspaper – you'll have a much higher rate of comprehension and retention if you read it out loud. You might feel a bit foolish at first, but you'll eventually get the hang of it – and see the dividends paying off.
Articulate Your Principles for Life
Take a moment and think: "What am I living for?"
Now try saying out loud: "I am living for..."
Notice the difference? Speaking our beliefs out loud helps reveal how closely we actually follow our principles for living, and if they truly resonate within.
We all want to be happy, successful, to accomplish. We all want to use our potential. We don't want to waste any part of it. We all want to be kind. We want closure. To be in reality. To be efficient. We want everything good for ourselves, our loved ones, and all humanity.
If this is true, say out loud: "I want to be great." Repeat this to yourself, maybe even into a tape recorder. Hear how you sound. Find out whether you mean it or not. Words are "bullets" because they indicate more readily what a person is thinking. What comes out of a person's mouth indicates his present "mixture" of body and soul.
If an important concept is hazy or difficult, explain it, articulate it, and you will get clarity. We can catch a flaw in our thinking – flaws we may never have noticed if we'd kept those thoughts locked inside our heads.
Articulate what you are thinking, what you learn, and what you know about living. Don't let it lie there in the back of your head. Whenever you hear a piece of wisdom, turn it into a resolution – because if you don't take it out, it's useless.
From Potential to Actual
Speech is a unique human characteristic. When you want to translate something from a spiritual thought into a physical reality, speech is the method.
When struggling with a question or problem, use your voice. It forces you to grapple with the strangeness and the vagueness. Bringing a thought from your mind into your mouth takes it from potential to actual. When we say it out loud, the thought becomes engraved in stone.
The soul wants to grow, but the body is holding back. That's why you need to articulate ideas in a way that's convincing, to penetrate the idea into the body. We feel greater responsibility to carry through on what we say, much more than on what we think.
Articulation bridges the gap between the demands of the body, and the lofty notions of the soul.
This has practical application in synagogue life. During the silent "Amidah" prayer, people's lips are moving, though their voices are muted. And on Yom Kippur, the "Viduy" confession is said loud enough to hear yourself.
Have a Dialogue
Suppose you make a certain decision, but find yourself resisting. Talk yourself into it. Challenge yourself. Play your own devil's advocate.
"I'll work on my project later."
"I don't believe you. Convince me. The last time you said that, you didn't get to the project in the end."
"That's because I got too tired."
"So stop with the excuses! Get working on the project now, or you'll end up skipping it altogether!"
Nudge yourself with words. When you wake up in the morning and don't feel like getting out of bed, tell yourself: "Go ahead, put one foot down. It won't hurt." When your emotions are down, lift yourself out of it. If you're angry, calm the raging beast. If you're complaining, ease the pain. Use whatever method it takes to turn things around.
Tell yourself what you are about to do: "I'm going to take this ski slope now..."
Similarly, before going into a threatening environment, repeat many times your basic set of values. It helps stabilize you.
Of course, every power can be misused, and there's a lot of nuts out there talking to themselves. So it's better not to do this in public. Rather, lock your door and let people think you're rehearsing for an act. Argue it out with yourself. Call yourself names. The main thing is that by articulating your ideas about living, you will get clarity.
But beware of counterproductive words. Don't say "I'm no good, I'm stupid, I won't understand, I'm a failure, I can't change." Before long you'll start believing it. You'll tear yourself down and feel like nothing.
The idea is not to drive yourself crazy, or to make others think you've gone over the edge. Rather, you want to surface your rationalizations so you can get a clearer picture of reality. It's a way of putting the different "parts" of you together on the table, to get them to work in unity, and to eliminate the blocks that hold you back.
Try giving yourself a daily pep talk on how much you are going to accomplish.
"Today is a great day, full of possibilities. Life is beautiful and I'm fortunate to be alive. I'm going to be full of joy and apply all the wisdom I know. Today I will achieve my goals."
Suddenly you're revved up and ready to go!
If you have enough money, you can even hire someone to give you a pep talk. Otherwise, make a pact with a friend and give each other "the talk." Or just talk to yourself!
Also at night, tell yourself: "Tomorrow I'm going to jump out of bed with energy and joy," or "I'm not going to get angry." Tell yourself why you are going to do it, how you are going to do it, and the pleasure you will get from doing it.
You've just talked yourself into it. Now get out there and do it.
Solve Problems Out Loud
Thinking through a problem is only one step in the resolution process. A problem that remains in your mind will often go unresolved. Hearing the problem through your ears provides a level of objectivity and perspective, and helps focus your attention.
By reviewing the issue out loud (or on paper), you'll define the difficulties. This will force you to search for a resolution. In a sense, you're able to play two roles at once: the teacher and the student.
Try this method of problem resolution:
- Write out a list of pros and cons.
- Assign each item a value: 1 for important, 2 for very important, 3 for essential.
- Then count up the total points for "pro" and the total for "con." You'll have a decision, as easy as that.
Then, once a decision is made, don't take for granted that you mean business. Nonsense. We sometimes make up our minds and then do not even try. We're just bluffing ourselves.
Don't rely solely on your mind's decision. Whenever you make an important decision, tell it over to a friend and see whether he believes you or not. When you try to sell it to someone else, he may just tell you: "Baloney!"
Imagine you've made a resolution: "Tomorrow I am going to do XYZ. I am really going to get what I want out of life." How do you make sure it gets done? Say it out loud – with clear-cut, forceful meaning. Convince yourself that you mean it. You're the boss. If you so demand, it is done. You have the willpower. When you're stubborn, nobody can move you. No way. You've made up your mind. Now off you go. You're on the march!
Review Events Out Loud
Concretize in words your experiences of the day. What does it mean? What I am going to do about it? And if I'm not going to do anything about it, why not? Deal with these issues.
Articulate the important events of your life. Look back at a wedding, funeral, graduation, and say out loud: "What did I learn from this?" Strive to understand any experience both before and after you do it. This gives you more control over your life, and makes those events more integrated into your daily consciousness.
Also try articulating your blessings. The extra dose of gratitude is a powerful tool for elevating one's level of happiness on a daily basis.
The reward of all this articulation? You'll get to know yourself. And when you know what you want, you can go out and get it. If you know what's holding you back, you can eliminate the obstacles. If you know what your pleasure is, you can enjoy it. Your powers are fantabulous.
If you do not know yourself, you are confused. You cannot get a hold of your powers.
People pay a lot of money just to hear themselves talk. When you pay a psychiatrist $200 an hour, you have to talk a lot to get your money's worth. If someone would sit with you, ask you questions, and listen to you talk, that would be fantastic. So talk to yourself – for free!
Do you have difficulty talking out loud to yourself? Try writing instead. Keep a diary. Here's how to get started: Take a piece of paper and put it on the table in front of you. The paper calls for you to put something on it.
Turn Goals Into Slogans
"It's the real thing." "Just do it." "Fly the friendly skies." The advertising industry spends billions to develop slogans.
Slogans are a quick and effective way to articulate core thoughts. Slogans enable us to remain clear about our goals and motivations – particularly when we're confused, tired, or both. Slogans inspire us to keep trying when we feel like giving up.
Before attempting anything, ask yourself, "What do I hope to accomplish?" Then put your answer into a slogan that will stick in your mind.
Look through the list of "48 Ways." It's basically a series of slogans.
Judaism's most famous slogan is the Shema: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One." More than just a prayer, it's a reminder of the very high purpose of life.
Here's some more Jewish slogans:
"It's a mitzvah to always be happy."
"The external affects the internal."
"The world stands on Torah, prayer, and kindness."
"Everything happens for the good." ("Gam zu l'tova.")
"God is good."
"God loves me."
To increase your focus in life, try saying these things... out loud... over and over.
If you're really serious, ask yourself, "What am I living for?" Then sloganize it, to keep you focused at all times.
The more senses you have working at one time, the deeper the impression. Saying something out loud means you are using every one of your bones. You are using your diaphragm, your brain, your ears, and your lips, teeth and tongue. Try to be consciously aware of involving every fibre of your being. When you say "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God," do it from your toes. That makes a deep impression. It's living with everything you've got.
Why is "Saying It Out Loud" a Way to Wisdom?
- "Saying it out loud" helps you clarify fuzzy ideas.
- Articulation is objectivity.
- The more senses you involve, the more of an impression it leaves on you.
- What you speak is an expression of who you are.
- Everyone needs a sounding board, a feedback system. Do it yourself!
- Never say, "I can't." Because then you won't, even if you could.
- Language is the bridge where body meets the soul.
- Talking aloud keeps you from falling asleep and day-dreaming.
- Words are reality. "To say is to be!"
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Way #3: Say It Out Loud