Speak the spiritual interior of the word
The Japanese word kotodama is made from the kanji (the pictographically-based system of Japanese writing) for ‘speak’ and the kanji for ‘occupied by spirit’. It acknowledges that our words have an explicit meaning (their definition) as well as an implicit meaning (an energy within them). When the explicit meaning and the energy behind the meaning match, people can trust our words, because they can feel that what we mean and what we are saying are the same. Many young people experiment with sarcasm, which is a rupture between the explicit and implicit meaning of the word, without realizing that our unconscious is endlessly sincere, and that by so doing they are separating the mind from the body.
So the practice of kotodama is to bring mindful awareness to your speech, to realize that much of what people are picking up from you is not the words themselves, but the feeling behind them. While this sounds simple, it is actually a lifetime practice, because to feel our words, we have to allow ourselves to feel. This alignment between meaning and feeling happens as we learn to speak from our hearts. This is different from speaking from our minds, which like to run scripts. When we speak from our hearts, we speak into the living moment, into feeling, into relationship. If you ever watch someone tell a story, you can tell right away the difference between a person who is reciting (speaking from their head) and someone who is telling you the story right now, in the living present. When we tell the story live, which is more courageous, and more vulnerable, we aren’t attending to the story in our mind, but watching our listeners to see how it lands. In this way, the story becomes a transmission, and those receiving it become part of how it is told, because we are telling it to reach them. If it isn’t landing, if it isn’t being received, we have to adapt our telling. Kotodama is the practice of transmitting felt meaning through the spirit of the word: a practice of connection and restoration.
Teach me how
Our book Keywords is awaiting publication.
Teach me how
Humans have probably always been awed by the natural world.
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Video: Shutterstock| Photography: Engin Akyurt | Licensed from Pexels.com, used with permission.