I’ve been writing about the Voice this month (capitalized it because it’s such a special human capacity). In Part One we looked at the potential of the voice – verbal, in writing, or otherwise – as a means of expression; in Part Two we delved into the power of sound to produce change and affect health; and in Part Three we explored how the voice can open up stagnation within and outside of us, and we saw that every use of the voice has a positive, negative, or neutral effect on us and our surroundings. Now, let’s take a look at the voice and its medium – the Word – as a tool of creation.
The late Sikh leader and Kundalini teacher, Yogi Bhajan, wrote, “The highest, most effective energy on this planet is the word. When we understand the power of the word and we apply the whole mind behind the word, then we create the word, which can create the whole world for us. One who does not know how to live to his word does not know how to live. But if you will honor the word, you will be honored in this world.”
The Word is not just a tool of creation, it’s the means through which agreements are possible, and it gives rise to the concept of integrity. When we say a person has integrity, most people understand this to mean something like honesty, or healthy morals and ethics. But, I prefer the structural definition – “a state of being whole and undivided.” As it pertains to the voice, I see integrity as being a state of undividedness between our actions and our words.
Every time we use our words to make an agreement – whether stated aloud or not, and whether we involve another person or not – it’s like planting a seed. Something is set into motion. The destination – the conditions we define in our agreement – gains a certain gravity, a magnetism that pulls us toward it. There’s a path between here and there, and we have made clear our intention to traverse that path. The destination could be as simple as wake up at 7:30, or as involved as become the president.
Within every agreement is the potential to maintain integrity (by fulfilling the contract) or to degrade it (by breaking the contract). When we keep agreements, we build trust in ourselves and we prove our trustworthiness to others. When we break them, we erode our self-trust and others’ trust in us. The word of a person who keeps nearly every agreement they make is profoundly more powerful than that of a person who says they’ll do things but rarely follows through.
When we make an agreement with another person, the consequences of breaking that agreement may be more visible than when we break an agreement with ourselves. The other person may be angry at us, they may lose trust in us, they may not want to have a relationship with us anymore. When we break an agreement we made with ourselves – say, to work out three times a week, or to not overeat – we always let ourselves off the hook. We give ourselves an endless supply of free passes to break agreements. It’s no big deal – who am I affecting but myself? Ah, but the subconscious effects – and thus the effects on our personal power – can be devastating.
Every time we break an agreement with ourselves, we give ourselves two communications: (1) I don’t matter, and (2) I can’t be trusted to do what I say I’m going to do. These thoughts undermine our self-approval and self-worth, they limit our ability to live up to our potential, and they elicit toxic feelings such as guilt and shame. If this is a pattern for us, it’s likely that when we consider doing something really big, our mind will thwart our progress. We’ll have thoughts like, Chances are, I’m not going to follow through on this.
Beyond the loss of integrity caused by the disparity between what we said and what we did, breaking an agreement with ourselves harms our internal integrity by dividing our consciousness – we become split. The mind is forced to play both the part of the guilty party that broke the agreement and the hurt party that was disrespected. The more of such internal conflict we host in our mind, the less peaceful and powerful we are.
Conversely, when we honor the power of the voice and our word, we start to pay attention to the agreements we make, and we do our best to keep them, we gradually build an extensive history of integrity. Simultaneously, we become more selective with our word, only making agreements that we know we can keep. We hone our word into a statement of fact. We always do what we say we’re going to do, and thus, what we say, almost without exception, becomes reality.
This week I encourage you to become more conscious of the agreements you make with yourself and others. Do your best to keep them all. If you anticipate that you’ll not be able to keep an agreement, communicate this ahead of time, and come up with a workable solution with the aim of preserving trust. Don’t make excuses, just do whatever it takes to clean it up. If you’ve been breaking agreements with yourself, start by making fewer, simpler agreements. Agreements you know you can fulfill. Gradually add more, and increasingly challenging agreements, but remember that your self-trust is at stake. When you fully potentiate your Word in this way, you’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Dr. Peter Borten