Have you heard yourself lately?
Do you find that sometimes when conversing you are only sort of listening when it's the other person's turn to speak? And in fact when you observe yourself more closely, you find that what you are actually doing is waiting... waiting for gaps. Waiting for the gaps in conversation to inject with your own point of view. Or, perhaps you are using the time to rehearse what you yourself want to say.
Being silent can make us uncomfortable –we have this urge to fill in the silent gaps with words, to fix or manipulate a situation. At one extreme we may try and make light of a situation by cracking a joke and at the other, we may take ourselves too seriously and find the need to say something deep and meaningful or show our superior knowledge, that we have 'been there, done that'. Not being aware whilst listening can be harmful. If we lack awareness whilst listening we can miss the cue the other person is giving us to let us know what is really going on. We miss the full meaning of what is said or remains unsaid. Why do we do this? Not always because we want to make the other person feel better but because we want to feel better ourselves.
But switch this around. Can you think of how many times have you longed to be heard and understood?
The Art of Listening
"listen with your whole being, not just your ears. Listen with your body, your heart, your eyes, your energy and your total presence. Listen in silence without interrupting, fill in spaces of silence between you with love, with silent permission for the other person to go on and go deeper" - Christine Longaker
The Power of Silence
In our culture silence is not something that we are comfortable with. Meditation can teach us about the power of silence, how to listen and simply be present.
When we sit in silence on our cushion or chair, we learn to befriend ourselves and just be as we are. The endless chatter in our heads gradually starts to quieten down and settle. With patience and kindness towards ourselves we can gradually begin to relax within ourselves.and after sitting quietly with yourself you may find that you have absolutely nothing to say or do! There is nothing to prove and you don’t need to be a particular way for anyone.
It's not what we know, it's how we are
Meditation can enable us to become less judgemental and accepting of ourselves, and more forgiving. We gradually let go of the need to validate our presence through words. We can finally stop pretending to have to be somebody. Being present, fully present and open is good enough.
Infusing our Listening with Presence and Compassion
But at the other end, it doesn't mean we become mute and unresponsive. We can often find that we do not know what to say in uncomfortable situations but infusing our listening with presence and compassion enables us to be skilful when we speak. When we speak from a quiet place inside us what we say comes from a very different place and people can hear that. This contemplative listening extends from our practice. The quality of our presence can make the person we are listening to feel heard and understood. It reminds them of their own sense of purpose or meaning and they in turn reflect this back on us.
Communicating doesn’t always need words. Being comfortable when the conversation goes silent , and simply sitting and enjoying each others company can be incredibly meaningful. In the same way a warm unafraid glance can say much more than words.
Based on 'The Art of Listening' by Kirsten Delio