The next time you’re in a restaurant or at a party, notice how you and your friends converse. Unless you hang with an unusual group of people, you’ll find that you’re actually exchanging meaningful information less than 30 percent of the time. The rest is fluff designed to make one of you appear interesting, intelligent, or important to the others.
Perhaps it’s about time you realized that aimless social chitchat can be hazardous to your spiritual health? Small topics make for small minds. Nature offers many examples. The size of a Japanese koi fish, for instance, is determined by the dimensions of its environment. In a small bowl, a koi fish will become only a few inches long. Move it to a large aquarium and it will double or triple its size. Put the same koi fish in a large pond and it can grow up to two feet long!
The same applies to you and your friends, except that human koi fish bowls are constructed of thoughts and words rather than glass. Eleanor Roosevelt put it in a nutshell: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
If you could be invisible and eavesdrop on the various conversations at social gatherings, here’s what you’d likely discover: Over two-thirds of the conversations are pure gossip revolving around a pronoun parade of I, you, he, she, we, they—who said or did what. Twenty-five percent are about recounting—business, sports, entertainment, current events, or things people have or want to get. Less than ten percent of the total is reserved for the exploration and sharing of ideas. Progressing through the three is like moving from a tiny bowl to an aquarium to an ocean.
When two people converse, they create an energetic field of pure potential between them. This field is like a perfectly tuned Steinway ready to respond to the performer’s preference: Chopsticks, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, or a Mozart concerto. Why waste any opportunity to explore the full possibilities of such a magnificent instrument? Why live your life confined to one octave, striking the same five black keys again and again and again?
“But what’s wrong about talking about people? Surely it doesn’t have to be gossip,” you might ask. True—in theory. But check it out. How often does talk about people not turn to gossip? You may be surprised. And while gossip seems harmless, it isn’t. Gossiping is as shallow as you can get, and it levies a pretty price.
Every time you speak, you tell the world who you really are. Mark your words well, for what you are truly saying is heard by those who really know how to listen. Words, when they are not attended to, are like energetic viruses scavenging your mind for receptor sites. They readily bond with preconceived ideas and beliefs, and when they do, you start evaluating instead of listening. When you find yourself formulating what you’re going to say well before the other person has finished speaking, it’s a sign that you’ve been hooked.
A one-inch fish thinks it’s a giant if all it’s ever known is a six-inch bowl. You’ve no doubt met a few of these in your time—big fish in little ponds, full of self-importance with an annoying need for constant acknowledgment. Listen carefully to people who seem overly committed to what they are saying. Might they be resisting a move to a larger bowl because they fear it might threaten their beliefs?
If you want to grow spiritually, risk leaving the comfort zone of your accustomed bowl. Every conversation offers the perfect opportunity to do so—even the ones about people and events. Instead of listening to the words, try being intensely curious about what lies beneath them.
The next time you’re engaged in conversation, check out the five journalistic W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. Gossip quickly fills in the first four, but asking why immediately takes any discussion to a deeper level. Curiosity always asks why. Why is she saying that? Why is he reacting that way? Look for the underlying intent of everyone involved in the conversation—especially your own. Once you’ve done that, crank it up a notch. Move past the significance of what’s being said and notice the patterns of energy flowing between the participants. If you can skirt your way around judgment, you’ll soon notice personality archetypes, those universal constructs that humans employ to work through their self-imposed fears.
It doesn’t take long to master the art of shifting fishbowl conversations into aquariums, and oceans. As your sheep-like utterances mature into purposeful discourse, your little fish can grow in ways you have yet to imagine.
Jean-Claude Gerard Koven is a writer and speaker based in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. He was a featured weekly columnist for the UPI (United Press International) Religion and Spirituality Forum and is the author of Going Deeper: How to Make Sense of Your Life When Your Life Makes No Sense, recipient of both the Allbooks Reviews Editor’s Choice Award and the USABookNews.com Award for the Best Metaphysical Book of the Year.
©2004 – 2017. Jean-Claude Gerard Koven / All Rights Reserved.