Swearing – Cairns #22

I rarely swear. It usually doesn’t bother me if other people do but my avoidance of swearing originates in a specific moment on a cross-country hike on the flanks of Mt. Lassen about ten years ago. It is a challenge to keep one’s consciousness elevated during a hard, sweaty, uphill stretch. The mind can wander and mutter to itself. My mind was doing that and I gradually became aware that swear words were coming into consciousness quite often. All of a sudden, I perceived a direct correlation between my tendency to swear and the current direction of my mind/spirit. I suddenly realized that the rising of swear words within me was feedback that my mind was moving in a direction I did not wish to go, a direction of less awareness and more “at the mercy of things”, with more of a negative attitude toward my experiences, and with a sloppy slurring of speech into generic packaged expressions. This was an important distinction: the swear words are not bad. But the arising of them in my consciousness is feedback that I’m straying off course. I suddenly saw that awareness of swearing could form a guardrail. This realization was so direct and strong that I stopped climbing and took a vow on the spot. What made the vow unusual was that it wasn’t a vow to not swear. Swearing can come into speech so quickly (especially if I hit my thumb with a hammer) that I didn’t believe I could keep that vow and what makes a vow a vow is that it is kept forever. Besides, my realization made me aware that it wasn’t avoidance of swear words that was the point. Instead, the vow was to be aware of swearing rising into my consciousness or speech and to respond to that rising with a heightened attention to direction manifesting in part as a heightened precision in speech (which includes a default setting of not using swear words).


Just learning how to play with all of this.

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