One year ago my best friend and fellow writer Mary and I embarked on a journey. We committed for 30 days to resist negative speech and thoughts about others, no matter what.  Then, we pledged to write honestly about the experience.

We began with astronomical aspirations of nobility and kindness, totally believing we would be these incredible guru love people and that all our judgements and puking negative thoughts would just vanish.  If Oprah still had her show, we were convinced she’d be interviewing us because of our extraordinary transformation and our ability to cause world peace.

How we overestimated ourselves to this extent still baffles me. Of course, within the first hour, we massively, horrifically and spectacularly failed.

But.. We did end up dramatically changing our hearts and our experience anyway. Every single day we’d take a personal inventory and check in with each other on how we’d done. The first few days were horrid. “I blew it 17 times”… “I beat you”…. “Ok, back on the wagon”

Over time, it did NOT get easier. We both experienced bouts of depression and feeling totally out of step with the culture. To not participate in any negative conversation, to commit to ONLY talking about how something made YOU feel may not sound that weird or hard, but trust us… it makes you an alien.

As the 30 day mark got into sight we both noticed something profound. For most of the time, we suppressed what we wanted to say and how we felt, but we still felt it. However as time went on, that shifted. Slightly at first and then dramatically, we both began to observe that we couldn’t even muster up some of the feelings we had, it was like we had actually re-wired the judgmental parts of our brain/hearts and even if only slightly, we’d actually BECOME more compassionate.

Mary wrote about it today as well and once again we’ve re-committed to this practice. It’s the only way I know to serve the world and the only response I can come up with to the terror attacks and all the hate and judgment entwining all of us these days.

Join us if you’d like, share how it’s going—love really can build a bridge.

Mary’s experience:

“For me, love your neighbor as yourself is not a commandment; it is the plain truth, spoken by a spiritual giant named Jesus Christ. I believe that we love our neighbor (or anything or anyone) exactly like we love ourselves, all the time.

I found myself resisting the urge to shout out “stop!” as I listened to two women in the gym locker room go on and on about the imperfections of someone close to them. Because I’ve made a promise within my faith community to practice right speech and intention, I realized that it was time to re-engage in the practice of restraint in my speech and thoughts about others for 30 days. 

For thirty long days last year, Tyler and I stopped talking about anyone else unless it was absolutely necessary for a business or informational purpose. We promised to refrain from both negative and positive speech about others. Even though we both failed at this several times each day, there was a profound impact on our mindfulness and our lives.

It is almost impossible to tell the story about my locker room experience without talking about other people; as I try, I find myself awkwardly describing only my internal experience.

“I actively resisted the urge to shout out in the locker room. I felt bad that I didn’t speak up. I felt protective. I felt hypocritical.”

This morning, I was affected by a careless comment from a stranger on my way to work. Again, I want to tell you all about the person and what they said. It feels extremely vulnerable (and lonely!) to let go of the story, and just describe my experience.

“I was hurt today.” 

Naturally, as I let go of so many (excellent, I think-ha ha) stories, I spend more time in silence, listening for guidance and grace.

Simple, tough, temporary practices like this leave me standing alone under the hot spotlight of my judgment and my shame; The only way out is to grab the bright floodlight of self-awareness and turn it around, inch by painful inch, until the cool sensation of presence engulfs me.

The brilliant lights blind me to your imperfections and force me back inside, where I have to gently and firmly learn to love and accept every single part of Mary G, so that I can love and accept every part of you.

Whether I am meditating, driving according to the all the rules without exception for a time ( thank you Bhante San!), refraining from speech on a long hike with a friend, praying for the farmers who cultivated the plants on my plate, or disengaging from gossip, I have only one purpose in mind; I want to experience and offer unconditional love. I believe that this is the purpose of my life.

Today might be an especially great day to fall back into love with yourself and your life. There are several mindfulness practices that support this effort, and many people who can light your way.

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).