Speaking Your Truth

By: Keith Varnum

I should have been enjoying the soothing caress of the playful breeze
as it wafted its way through my hair on this balmy evening in the
Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles. Instead, I was too self-
absorbed to notice the sweet, spicy fragrance of spring blossoms in
the wind. I was brooding over what I should say in my speaking
engagement due to commence in about ten minutes inside the East-West
Institute meditation center. In a muted voice, I was practicing my
speech aloud when I was startled by a shadow invading my private
corner of the porch. The sudden appearance of a tall, swarthy
stranger looming over my anxious figure temporarily seduced me out of
my self-indulgence. Obviously sensing my mood and malady, the lanky,
dark-skinned man tried to coax me out of my funk in a soft, gentle,
yet assured tone, "What's the matter, cat got your tongue? Didn't I
hear you rehearsing some lines?"

"Yes, I'm preparing my presentation for this evening. I can't decide
what to talk about. I don't know if people really want to hear what I
have to say about the subject. Maybe I should just quote from the
published research on the topic and let it go at that," I replied

"It's none of my business, but why don't you just speak from your
heart what you've encountered personally?" "Oh, that would be too
easy!" I laughed. This bold, mysterious advisor had shifted me out of
my doom and gloom. I was grateful for that. "Besides, people don't
care what a twenty-year-old knows about healing. I'd better adhere to
what the experts and professionals have to say."

"Suit yourself, but I've fared much better sticking to what I've
discovered firsthand. May I tell you a story?" I nodded agreement. I
was thankful for any distraction at this point. A tale sounded like
the perfect antidote to the seriousness that had overtaken me.
Through a personal story, my candid friend offered the most precise
and useful advice regarding communication I have ever received.

"Most of my early life growing up in Morocco, I was sickly," Michael
began soberly. "After years of searching and experimenting in my
quest for health, I came across a book by George Osawa, the
originator of a philosophy of healthy living called macrobiotics.
Encouraged by my discovery, I devoured all the books by Osawa I could
find. By eating, thinking and living the macrobiotic way of life, I
transformed the ailing youth I once was."

"I felt robust and alive again," Michael enthused. "My recovery was
so miraculous and complete, I decided to devote my life to helping
others in the same way George Osawa helped me. With great exuberance,
I began to give public presentations about the macrobiotic system of
eating and living. I described in detail how sickly I'd been. I
expounded upon the vitality I now enjoy and how blessed I am.
Hundreds of desperate North Africans were attracted to my talks-
people seeking the restoration of fitness that I achieved."

Michael's poise and sincerity in recounting his tale to me explained
his immediate popularity on the lecture circuit. His compassion and
dedication was palpable in the cool night air.

"But as more and more people came to my talks and my reputation grew
throughout the Arab world, I began to develop a severe throat problem,
" Michael continued. "At first, my throat would just itch. I coughed
a lot during my speeches. As I continued to address larger and larger
crowds, the tickle in my throat became an acute ache.

My voice
gradually became harsh and grating. I was stubborn and intent upon my
holy mission to help others. I insisted on keeping up my hectic
speaking schedule. Finally, in the middle of the evening lecturing to
the largest audience I'd ever assembled, my throat started to bleed.
Of course, in my arrogance, I attempted to keep going. Eventually I
was coughing up so much blood, I had to stop talking for the evening."

As the tenacious stranger paused, I drew a quick, halting breath. I
felt the need to bolster myself before he resumed. I was visibly
rattled by the focus of his story. I was about to lecture on the same
topic of macrobiotics to several hundred anguished souls also
searching for help. The similarities were remarkable; the coincidence
unnerving. My hands and legs were trembling. I grabbed the wooden
railing of the stairs to stabilize myself. Why was I reacting so
strongly to his story? I asked myself. I was afraid to know.

"After a frustrating week of saving my voice and waiting for my
throat to heal, I began lecturing again," Michael carried on with his
cautionary tale. "The same problem appeared after just ten minutes at
the podium. This became a pattern for the next few months. I'd
reluctantly take time off for my throat to heal. Then I'd return to
my speaking schedule. Shortly into my next talk, I'd begin coughing
up blood again and be forced to stop. It was extremely frustrating,
to say the least!

"I consulted many medical doctors. No practitioner could find
anything medically or physiologically abnormal with my throat. I saw
I must look elsewhere for relief. Needing to gain my own insight into
the problem, I'd have to heal it myself.

"I became the lead detective on my own case. I noticed when I quit
lecturing, my throat stopped bleeding and healed overnight. I also
observed that my throat only acted up when I was giving a speech
about macrobiotics. My throat functioned perfectly in everyday life.
Since the only time my throat bled was during my lectures, I
determined my soul and God must be trying to tell me something about
my public speaking. After all, the problem brought my public talks to
an abrupt and embarrassing halt every time! So, I began listening to
myself in order to hear what I was saying up to the point at which my
throat would begin bleeding."

At this juncture in Michael's biography, I was sweating profusely and
about to faint. His tale was hitting much too close to home. I
blurted out, "Please, Michael, tell me what happens-quickly! I can't
take the suspense!" My sudden outburst made me feel acutely
embarrassed, but since the moral of his story was truthfulness, I was,
at least, following the spirit of his sharing!

Sensing my distress, the lanky stranger reached over to gently, but
firmly, grip my forearm with his right hand. It was a sensitive and
reassuring gesture on his part. I was grateful for any assistance I
could get at this point. I wanted to hear the rest of his adventure,
but part of me was afraid to absorb any more of his lesson. I
implored Michael to pick up where he left off and ignore my emotional

"The results of my self-observation didn't reveal any helpful clues,"
Michael admitted sheepishly. "I saw only that my talks consisted
mostly of me quoting George Osawa and fervently admonishing people to
eat and live according to Osawa's theories if they wanted to regain
and retain their health.

"Confused and bewildered, I prayed to God, 'What's wrong with what I
say? I'm just trying to help people.' God's answer was swift and
explicit. That very night I was awakened from my sleep by two vivid
visions. In the first, I saw myself in the present, stridently
pointing my finger at a large audience, telling them how they needed
to change the way they ate and lived. And then suddenly, I began to
spew blood from my mouth. A crimson fountain gushed forth from my
throat, soaking my lecture notes in bright red liquid.

"In the second tableau, I saw myself in the past when I first started
to speak publicly. I was sharing calmly, compassionately-in my own
words-how I'd healed myself by changing the way I ate, thought and
lived. The group was small. The format was informal. My throat didn't
bleed. My voice was strong and distinct. The audience was listening
with rapt attention.

"Startled and shaken, I knew instantly the import of the two visions.
When I spoke from my heart, my message was my own and it got
delivered. I was sharing observations based solely on my own personal
experience. And I wasn't trying to force my point of view down people'
s throats. When I taught borrowed wisdom from George Osawa-and
bludgeoned the audience with warnings and admonitions-my own speaking
mechanism rebelled. My throat bled, silencing my tirade. I realized
that God was directing me to simply offer my own personal truth. If I
stick to sharing my direct experience, I'll be heard. But when I
preach secondhand information, I won't be heard." Michael placed his
arm around my shoulder as he exclaimed with the unbridled joy of a
child, "From that day on, my throat has never bled again."

I was jolted back to the present by the sight of the watch on Michael'
s wrist in front of my face. It was time for my lecture inside the
meditation hall. Despite the fears and resistance the story had
triggered, I felt grateful for the co-conspiracy of Michael and my
inner coach. This explicit and valuable guidance came just when I
needed it. What timing!

Drawing strength from Michael's example of honesty and compassion, I
spoke my own truth in my own words that evening. I didn't have to
clear my throat once during the talk. I exposed my heart and soul to
the audience that night and received profuse acknowledgement and
appreciation in return.

During my long career as a public lecturer, my throat has never bled
like Michael's did in his youth. But I have periodically encountered
minor throat problems while speaking. Whenever my voice starts to
become hoarse, raspy or blocked in any way, I remember Michael's
story. I stop to reflect upon what I'm saying. Each time I find that
I've strayed from my personal experience into quoting someone else's
words or experience. Or, I discover I have shifted from simply
sharing what I know into preaching to others what they should do.
Then, as I return to sharing my own truth, my throat clears and I
reconnect with the hearts of the audience.

I've learned for myself, what Michael discovered in his youth. When I
speak what I know from direct experienceComputer Technology Articles, my body-and spirit-support
me fully!


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