Being in a foreign country makes words special. I’m limited in Bahasa Indonesia, so I have a lot less to say. Since I’m so much more frugal with words, I can’t help but to be more mindful of what I do say. A simple yes, or no, or an effective adjective or noun, suffices most of the time as communication.
In contrast, I realize how much I say in my native tongue that is useless or superfluous. Colloquial expressions, repetitive additions of adjectives or phrases to emphasize a point, nonsense interjections and sounds make me feel comfortable with what I’m saying.
I notice this overexpressiveness with the people around me here, too. It’s not that we are wrong in verbalizing outside of the point; it’s just that we are unaware of it. As I (very) slowly pick up on words, I hear them being used outside of their direct meaning. Sort of how Americans say, “like” and “honestly” beyond their effectiveness. Guilty as charged.
Of course, language involves not just words but how we say them, the expressions of our face and body, and the all the extras we throw into the mix. It helps us to connect and relate with each other on a deep level, one that is hardly noticeable. And unfortunately, we hardly take notice of it.
Being mindful of how we express ourselves and what we verbalize is respectful of those with whom we commune. It gives them a thoughtful message, easier to digest and respond to, or at least more carefully packaged with meaning. It’s when we say what we mean.
Walking through the streets of Bali, where we’ve come to settle into a lower frequency for a bit, I come across nonverbal expression every day:
These canang sari offerings are made morning and afternoon, set out in doorsteps, sidewalks, and on statues representing gods and demons.
They are a perpetual, powerful, precious acknowledgment of the Balinese deities. They are set out in silence, and require no words. The offerings carry the message, cut, folded, woven and packaged with utmost care. There is absolute awareness and intention of every flower placed, every leaf positioned, and each color chosen. No mistake can be made about their meaning.
Such is the potential we have with words as well.