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Excerpted from Awakening the Buddha Within: Eight Steps to Enlightenment by Lama Surya Das. Copyright© 1998 by Lama Surya Das. Excerpted by permission of Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"That's why we all regularly need to stop and ask ourselves if we are moving in the direction of more honesty, or not."

Lama Surya Das, Awakening the Buddha Within
Part 4

Everyone says that communication and mutual understanding is the essence of good relationships. And nowhere are the subtleties of honest speech more apparent than in our personal relationships. However, as much as we may want to express ourselves authentically with words that reflect love, warmth, and openness, we don't always manage to do it. Our expectations get in the way and distort the picture; so do our desires, fears, illusions, and projections. That's why we all regularly need to stop and ask ourselves if we are moving in the direction of more honesty, or not.

I often speak to people who tell me they are unhappy because their loved ones don't seem to be listening to what they have to say. They feel invalidated and as though their opinions are being disregarded. But when these people delve a little bit deeper below the surface of their complaints, they often realize they are failing to express their feelings and wishes in a clear and direct manner. When we withhold our true feelings, protect our emotions, and construct false personas to present to the world, we become part of the problem.

Reality--seeing things just as they are--is a central issue of Buddhist practice. Pure attention, unclouded by distortion or delusion, knows things exactly as they are, in the present moment. We bring Right Speech into our relationships by trying always to be honest and forthright and by letting go of our intricate defense systems and being truthful and open about who we are and how we feel.

As part of awareness practice involving Right Speech, try listening to yourself so you can hear how you sound from a different perspective, as if being outside of yourself as an objective listener. Speaking the truth is a very present-moment activity; truth-telling begins by becoming aware of what you tell yourself. Then try listening to the way you sound to others. Do you sound tentative, confused, angry, rattled, tense? Are you using speech to manipulate feelings or emotions, yours or someone else's? Do you use speech, or even silence, as a way of hiding who you are? Are you communicating what you think you're communicating? Are you able to recognize and acknowledge reality? Are you able to speak your truth in your own authentic voice, unflinchingly and without hesitation?

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