Today’s practice is simple. Listen. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give another human being. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
A friend said something profound recently. I was talking, she was listening. She said, “I am not sure what you want me to do. Do you want me to reply? Do you want my opinion? Or do you just want me to listen?” Listening was the focus of two workshops I attended this month. It is important.
True listening starts with giving a person undivided attention. No phone checking, no looking away, no nods of affirmation. Just being totally present, holding space. No responses, cues, or helpful tidbits you just want to get in before you forget are allowed. These reactions derail the other’s thought train, threatening their ability to get back on track. Just listen.
True listening is another way of bringing stillness into the relationship. When you truly listen to someone, the dimension of stillness arises and becomes an essential part of the relationship. But true listening is a rare skill. Usually, the greater part of a person’s attention is taken up by their thinking. At best, they may be evaluating your words or preparing the next thing to say. Or they may not be listening at all, lost in their own thoughts.
– Eckhart Tolle Stillness Speaks
It is a gift to offer someone time and space to simply be heard. As is the opportunity to be a trusted listener. It’s good practice in what you can offer others and, in turn, receive for yourself.
In my experience, meditation is very much about listening. Sometimes it is focusing. Sometimes it is letting go. Always, it is where I create space so that I can listen.
Anne Lamott’s three essential prayers are also the title of her bestselling book: Help. Thanks. Wow. I’ll add one more: “Please Explain.” I offer this prayer and then I find time and space to listen.
Find that quiet today. Go into your bedroom or out into the woods. Step out after dark to the wonder of the vast dark sky. Breathe. When your thoughts start to flood in, come back to your breath. And lIsten. Practice with the people closest to you.