Tag Archives: Toastmasters

My Week of Silence

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Woman with Her Finger on Her LipsI just spent over a week without speaking.  No, I didn’t go to an ashram or a silent retreat; I simply had no voice for nine days.

My laryngitis was related to the flu virus that I mentioned in my last post and although it wasn’t unexpected, I never thought it would last so long.  However, since I am a big believer in the messages of our physical ailments, I decided to look for the meaning and lessons of my “week of silence.”

What Does Louise Hay Say?

As a first step in my search for answers, I referenced “You Can Heal Your Life” to see what Louise Hay had to say about laryngitis.  While I generally recognize myself and my situation in her remarks, I was left with a huge question mark on this one.  Louise Hay’s probable causes for laryngitis are:

  • So mad you can’t speak
  • Fear of speaking up
  • Resentment of authority

I am not an angry person. In fact, I rarely feel much anger at all.  I do experience a fair amount of frustration, but the thought of my being so angry I cannot speak is highly foreign to me. I do sometimes fear speaking up for myself, but this was not an issue for me around the time I lost my voice.  I also resent authority at times, but my rebellious streak has been tempered by age and I don’t feel this is a prominent issue for me any longer.

Could Louise Be Wrong This Time?

Could it be that the great Louise Hay is wrong in this instance? Possibly… She has stated that her probable causes ring true approximately 95% of the time.  Perhaps I’m i n that other 5%.  If I am angry at all, it’s about some of my life circumstances, such as my health issues and my career woes.  I have some anger toward myself for my role in these issues, particularly my failure to stick with a single career path long enough to become an expert in a certain profession.  But I would have to say that these are more frustrations than anger and are so long-standing that I would doubt they would lead to an acute bout of laryngitis in July 2010.

Worse Before It Gets Better?

One possibility that I have entertained is that my Healing Project has increased my focus on issues and feelings which had previously simmered more deeply beneath my conscious awareness.   In some respects, it feels as if things have gotten worse instead of better since I began this journey – and this blog – five months ago.  Sometimes things do get worse before they get better, but I am still optimistic that I can and will heal myself and my life in one year.

Great Communicator

Although Louise Hay may not be spot on regarding the probable causes for my laryngitis, I have derived a number of personal insights concerning losing my voice.  First, a bit of background information… I love to talk and am known to be a very talkative and animated person.  I have been a member of Toastmasters International for over six years and have been working on further honing my verbal communication skills through that venue.  I believe that one of my greatest strengths is my ability to communicate well through both writing and speaking.

Taking Our Blessings For Granted

We often take our gifts and our blessings for granted; it’s human nature to reflect more on what’s missing than on what’s present in our lives. I never really thought twice about being able to vocalize my thoughts and feelings whenever I desired to do so.  However, in my “week of silence,” the only sounds which were emitted from my lips were quiet whispers.  I was unable to speak on the phone or even verbalize a food order in a restaurant.  When a passerby said hello to me, I could only nod or wave in response.

Unable to Speak

It was difficult for me not to be able to talk, not just logistically but emotionally as well. I was rendered much more dependent upon my husband to do things for me and to be my “voice.”  I reflected upon those who are physically unable to speak for long periods of time and felt great empathy for them.  I wondered if they needed to carry a sign around wherever they went to alert the world of their handicap and if they were perpetually armed with a notepad and pen so that they could communicate even the most basic of ideas to others.

I also thought about Roger Ebert, the film critic rendered unable to speak as a result of throat and mouth cancer.  I saw him on Oprah earlier this year and marveled at how he has adapted to the changes in his life.  I saw his happiness at simply being alive and his gratitude toward his wife for how much she has helped him through his years of illness.

The Importance of Listening

What were my lessons from my week of silence?  I can think of a few… First, I am profoundly grateful for my gift for speaking and the ease with which I generally communicate through the spoken word.  Second, I realized that I need to spend more time in silence; that I need to listen and reflect more than I usually do.

I remember an old saying which expresses that we were given two ears and one mouth because we should listen twice as much as we speak.  I became aware last week that I don’t listen enough, as I am too preoccupied with talking.  When my husband and I go on long walks, I generally do most of the talking, but last week I ended up listening more to what he had to say.  When I’m not clamoring for “air time,” I get to learn more about others, including my wonderful husband, who is my best friend in the world.

Focus on What’s Right, Not What’s Wrong

Finally, I learned to appreciate the health that I do have instead of dwelling upon my niggling health complaints.  I was reminded that what we focus upon grows, so I should focus on my physical blessings instead of on my defects.  Of course, I will continue to pursue solutions to that which ails me, but my main focus should be on what’s right instead of what’s wrong.

It’s true that I still experience many migraines, but I also have excellent vision and hearing, as well as a strong and resonant voice most of the time.  That voice is gradually re-emerging after my week of silence.  It sounds hoarse and raspy now, but I am ever so grateful to be able to talk to my husband in more than a whisper.

A Closing Affirmation – I Love My Voice!

I close with the powerful affirmations on the voice from Louise Hay’s “Love Your Body”:

“I voice my opinions.  I speak up for myself.  I sing the praises of love and joy.  My words are the music of life.  I choose the thoughts that express beauty and gratitude.  I proclaim my oneness with all of life.  I love and appreciate my beautiful voice!”

I am so grateful to be able to speak! I am so grateful to be well after almost two weeks of being sick.  I am grateful for the many health blessings I have, including my wonderful voice. I am grateful for this day, and for every day of my life, and I wish you all a wonderful week!

Facing Our Fears

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Irrational Fears…

Most of us have fears which could be considered irrational.  We can be deathly afraid of things which really cannot hurt us.  Some of these fears impact us in fairly minor ways.  For example, if you’re afraid of clowns, you may avoid the circus, but this fear likely won’t impact you to any large degree.  Likewise, if you are terrified of thunder but live in an area where it rarely even rains, you won’t have to face your fear on a regular basis.

Fear Makes Our Lives Smaller

Other fears really do have the effect of greatly limiting our life experience.  Our lives can become dramatically smaller as a result of our fears, whether rational or irrational.  Many people are horrified at the thought of public speaking.  In fact, this fear often places above the fear of death in many surveys.   There was a ring of truth to Jerry Seinfeld’s joke that most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy at a funeral!  While it’s true that we can all flub a presentation and appear foolish as a result, is this really a fate worse than death?

I’ve been a member of Toastmasters for six years and I have seen the look of abject terror on the faces of guests and new members when they have to get up and speak for the first time, even to just say their names and answer a simple opening question.  Some of these people are able to overcome their speaking fears, while others let those worries stop them and we no longer see them at meetings.

I used to work with a woman who remained stuck in a dead-end job because moving to the next level would involve her giving presentations.  She was so terrified at the thought of speaking in front of others that she preferred to remain in a job which gave her little joy or fulfillment.

Lying to Ourselves

We often tell ourselves that our fears aren’t that big of a deal.  We lie to ourselves and say that these worries aren’t really limiting our lives.  Yet if we really look within, we may realize that we are indeed avoiding situations and opportunities so that we don’t have to face that which we fear.

Facing My Irrational Fear

I recently decided to face a fear which is not only irrational; it’s so ridiculous that I am embarrassed to write about it and thus “out” myself for being so silly.  Yet this blog is about healing myself and helping others to heal, so I will banish my embarrassment in service of the lesson!

As I’ve mentioned previously, I suffered from eating disorders for much of my life and was dangerously underweight on and off for a number of years. I used to be victim to the tyranny of the scale and would weigh myself on a daily basis (or even several times a day).  I would allow the number revealed by this electronic device to dictate my moods and emotions and would make it mean significant things about my character.  If the number was low, I was a strong, disciplined, and acceptable person.  If the number was high, I was weak and disgusting by comparison.

How a Win Became a Fear

As I recovered from anorexia, I gave up weighing myself because I found it difficult not to attribute meaning to the three digit number displayed by the scale.  I considered my abandonment of scales to be a great win and a powerful sign of my healing.  However, over the years, I actually developed a deep fear of the scale and would steer clear of weighing myself at virtually all costs.  I would even avoid going to the doctor for fear that I would be asked to step on the dreaded scale.  When I absolutely needed to visit a physician, I would either ask not to be weighed or I’d weigh backwards and request that they not tell me the number.

I recently realized that I had become just as much a victim of the scale by fearing it than when I used to step on it habitually.  I had again let this otherwise benign device dictate my moods and my behavior!  I had let a number – or the fear of a number – mean something about my worth as a human being.   Rationally, I know that I am so much more than a number, that I am a person of infinite worth, as we all are.  I also know that my weight is my weight regardless of whether or not I know the number.  Avoiding what’s so doesn’t make it not so…

A Powerful Decision

I decided a little over a week ago that this had to stop!   I decided to face my fear and weigh myself, something I hadn’t done in close to 2.5 years… As I prepared to step on the scale last week, I found myself shaking and filled with trepidation.  But you know what?  Even though I wasn’t thrilled with the number, the experience wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be.  I actually felt much better about myself for facing a fear and my life expanded a bit from the act of doing something which scared me. I know that the next time I weigh myself, it will be easier, and eventually it will hold no more fear for me than brushing my teeth!

Do That Which You Fear

It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

  • How much more aliveness would we experience if we heeded the words of this wise woman?
  • How much bigger would our lives be if we no longer allowed our fears, rational or irrational, to stop us?

Here’s something to try… Make a list of everything that scares you.  Write down the big things and the small things, the significant and the trivial.  Then decide which fears you are ready to wipe out.  If tackling one fear each day seems like too much, how about one per week or one per month?

By starting “The Healing Project,” I set the intention to heal myself and my life in one year.  I now understand that a big part of my healing lies in facing my fears, in exercising my strength and my power. I am stronger than I think I am – we are all stronger than we think we are!

Closing Quotes

I will close this post with three powerful quotes, the first of which I’m sure you’ve seen before (but which bears repeating!):

  • “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson
  • “Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.” Marilyn Ferguson
  • “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it.  I want to have lived the width of it as well.” Diane Ackerman