Breath-Filled Communication: A new 1000-day practice to Speak Precisely

Calligraphy: "What will it take for us all to see each other clearly through eyes of love instead of fear? March 6, 2020. Communication Toolkit, Day 358, One Question Limit, Day 26"

November 2018:

A diagnosis turned our life upside down and inside out. With one phone call everything changed. (Well, maybe not everything! Love is a constant. Thanks to everybody who held space for us, sent love and healing energy, and supported us in so many ways.)

Unfortunately, in high stress (and Parenting Through Childhood Cancer constitutes High Stress) I tend to revert to external processing. My world shifted to primarily a new community of medical personnel, my husband, Kyle, and our son, Haji.  (Kyle and Haji appreciate quiet.)  I knew I needed a different way to process and communicate, so I turned inward. Decades of experience with Yogic Technology encouraged me to rely on my internal processing skills. I decided to create a new daily practice for myself. 

My goal: Speak clearly and precisely. No wasted words, no wasted effort. 

A phrase popped into my head, “Speak 17 words or less.” Pretty sure the recommendation arose from either Marshall Rosenberg (Nonviolent Communication)  or Yogi Bhajan (may he eternally repent), but I couldn’t find the reference. I eventually wondered if it was advice for posting on Twitter (a still-unfamiliar realm for me!) Nevertheless, I liked the idea of a 17-word challenge, and decided to stick with it! 

I found the practice challenging to remember. Keeping a daily reflection log encouraged me to hold the praxis in my awareness, and have fun with it. 40 days: break a habit (external processing), 90 days: instill a new habit (speaking more concisely), 120 days: the new habit becomes you, 1000-days to master the new habit.

Within the first 40 days, I started seeing results and benefits (although Kyle and Haji didn’t seem to notice any changes!).  Here are some excerpts from my log:

Day 1: Mercury Retrograde, First Quarter Leo Moon. “Time to glorify, weed and arrange.” My intention for my sentences. (17)


1. Speak Maximum of 17 words.

2. Take minimum of three long, deep breaths before speaking again.

3. Enjoy the silence and cultivation of a new rhythm.

4. Listen to self and others with an open heart that flows with compassion, gratitude, humor and forgiveness.


Day 2: A dear friend reminds me not to be dogmatic in my practice.

I’m setting my intention for mindful, breath-filled communication, with lots of flexibility. A PRACTICE, not a PERFECT.


5. Allow words to flow with those who are up for it. (Both-And Clause)


Day 4: I’m still finding my way into this practice. Rough with Mercury retrograde!


Day 6: Praanic body encourages me to continue this practice. (8)

I’m full of emotion and desires right now. With my breath, I expand to contain them all. (17)


Day 8: Still at the top of my consciousness. I’m not speaking much. We’ll see what happens today. (15)


Day 10: A subtle practice, begins with cultivating awareness. ||PAUSE||When and how words appear, which ones arise, what’s said clearly with intention. (20) Insert a pause, take three breaths. 


After a month or so, I asked Kyle and Haji about their experience with my changing habit. “Oh, yeah, now that you mention it…” Haji pointed out that I still “rapid-fired” questions, not giving him a chance to answer the first one before I’m asking the second, third and fourth. (I noticed nurses do this, too.) I added in “6. Ask only one question at a time.”

At 40 days I celebrated, reviewed my log, and decided to keep going. I thought about what I wanted my ideal communication to look like. (I realized I struggle with maintaining eye contact while speaking to others.) I crafted a 17-word phrase to recite, hoping that I could create a rhythm in my being:

“Integrate eye contact. Speak maximum 17 words. One question limit. Take three deep breaths before speaking again.”

excerpts from handwritten journal

I began counting the words in my written reflections, looking for the pace. It’s these excerpts I’m now teasing out, little nuggets of wisdom on ways to enhance communication. Some are questions, I think I like those best.  

Maybe there’s not one ‘right’ answer. Rumi’s Field. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field, I will meet you there.” -Rumi. Yes! Land of Both-And!

My friend’s reminder on Day 2 to avoid getting crazy dogmatic with it encourages me to make exceptions to my rules (and to rules in general!). With a handful of dear friends and counselors I share more than 17 words at a time. I do strive to pause and breathe while sharing! Breath-Filled Communication!

Today, 12/8/20, is day 634. More to reveal as this process continues to evolve!

If you are interested in more calligraphy, check out Heart Craft Calligraphy. The 3/month subscription includes excerpts from the Communication Toolkit such as the one above. Individual cards will also be available soon, so check back!