3P Random Reflections Blog
I was in a group discussion the other day, where the topic was listening. After the call,
I started reflecting on all the "ways to listen" that I had previously shared as a corporate trainer. The more I reflected, the more how-tos came to mind...
- Use your incredible power of awareness. Notice when your mind has left the room and gently bring
yourself back in.
- Don't jump in with your first response. Wait to see what else comes up.
- Don't jump in to "telling". If you have to jump in with anything, then jump in with "asking"... Reflect on what you don't yet know and then ask what
occurs to you.
- Be curious
- Realize that you can't be heard until the person you are with has been (and more importantly, has felt) heard first
- You have two ears and one mouth for a reason
- If you're
afraid of forgetting what you want to say while the person speaks, write down key words as they occur to you, so you can remember what to say later, and so you can get back to listening now. Later, notice how many of your written "pearls of wisdom" were never
needed, and may actually have been in some way detrimental to the conversation or connection.
- Notice your body
language and feelings as clues to how well you're listening... Are you relaxed or tense? Are you smiling? How is your breathing? Are you leaning forward or back? Is your body open or closed? Are you mimicking their physical behaviours or contradicting them?
Are you making eye contact? Is your tone of voice equal to theirs? Are you at the same height (not standing while they're sitting or vice versa)? Are you feeling connected or separate? Do you like them or dislike them in the moment?
- Move to a calm, quiet environment conducive to listening
- Put down your phone, clear your desk, and turn away your computer screen before listening
- Plan ahead for the conversation, but don't go in with any assumptions or attachments to the outcome
- Leave your judgments, assumptions, and expectations at the door
- Leave your ego at the door
- Clients may not notice it, but they will always say that the best conversations were the ones where they did most of the talking...
and when the person they were with asked them questions that got them thinking in a new way
- Be creative with your
questioning to get them thinking and to get you listening... make them mostly open questions, don't ask them only what they already know, ask them to compare, ask them about best/worst/most/least, ask them "what if", ask them to imagine or speculate. Repeat
back what they've said to get confirmation for both of you, that what they said is what you heard (use their words so they feel important and heard)
- Selling is not telling
- Get used to the awkward discomfort of silence. Give them time
to think. Give yourself time to reflect.
- Earn their trust and feel the connection (ie, listen) before sharing your
- Listening is not a passive skill, it's a proactive skill
- Ask for permission to take notes
- Ask for permission to ask questions
- Even ask for permission to listen... get permission for the silence
Those are just the ones that came off
the top of my head, but the list goes on and on and on. And a grain of truth can be found in every single point, BUT there's something else that is so much greater to be seen.
In my past role, learning from all sorts of professional training organizations, there wasn't one single person, or at least
any one that I can remember, who ever gave me any indication that listening was NOT a skill and that NONE of the points on the list above could actually be "learned".
No one ever pointed out that underneath the experience of genuine listening was the deeper place it came from... that gave
every action its truth, and its authenticity, and its unique power in the moment.
No one ever pointed out that any moments of "doing listening" would get in the way of listening, and would more often arise as shallow, or off, or inauthentic, or parroting.
No one ever pointed out the possibility that "practice doesn't make perfect" and that
there's a greater underlying truth to realize.
No one ever pointed to the fact that listening was not something to do, or to gain, but more of something to just BE.
No one ever pointed out that listening was simply any moment we remember, "who and what we are within the essence of life itself".
Whenever any of us fall into any sense of this "impersonal, unconditional
experience of life", we tend to lose our personal ego, we tend to lose our desperate need to be seen and heard and validated, we tend to fall into a felt space of emptiness, or calm, or peace, or love, or curiosity, or appreciation, or understanding, or wonder.
And from there, we truly listen. In those moments we "are" listen.
And so everything on the long list of listening behaviours are not something to do, or to practice. All that effort unwittingly keeps us in our head and out of our heart.
Perhaps if there is anything to do, there is simply the happenstance of noticing whenever our own experience
of listening comes more naturally, and pondering gently on where that easy feeling comes from.
Just a tiny glimpse of that is EVERYTHING.
Although a particular person or situation may appear to "trigger" our personal response, it's
never what "causes" it.
Realizing this in any way, at any time, transforms us from angry, vengeful victims railing against our apparent enemies (whatever we believe to be the "identified cause"), into wholehearted humans and neighbours and world
citizens, joyfully living and creating from and for something much bigger.
We no longer need to live with fearful hearts, desperately naming the believed cause of our feelings; "those" to be blamed and feared and destroyed. Instead we simply experience
the up and down energy of life, energetically finding ways to solve apparent problems, with FULL AWARENESS of our common humanity.
We no longer have the need to vilify the "other" as the solution to attaining, what we don't yet realize, is only and ALWAYS,
a false, elusive, fleeting feeling of personal security... "I'll feel better once the cause of this problem is removed." ...not noticing how soon and inevitably, the next problem appears. Instead, we feel the deeper, more solid, inherent security within the
energy of life itself, which comes from the glimpse of our innate connection to everyone and everything.
With this realization, we see how we cannot do harm to others without doing harm to ourselves. Fear of "them" comes from fear within us, so fighting with fear
only holds and creates more fear. Anger at "them" comes from anger within us, so fighting with anger only holds and creates more anger. Need for comparison comes from the lostness and isolation within us, and so righteously pointing for comparison (who or
what is less or more or right or wrong) only holds and incites more division.
But ahhhhhhhhh, how lovely it is, to realize the truth of another option...
How lovely to get a personal glimpse of life that allows us to be grounded in peace, championing any temporarily
defined cause, but ALWAYS with profound awareness of the relevance and sacred significance of everyone and everything in life. KNOWING that no one or no thing can be less or more. ALL is held gently in mind.
And the funny thing is that you think it
would make things much more complicated to consider the ALL instead of the FEW. "How can we get rid of problems if we don't define, if we don't choose right and wrong, and if we constantly have to consider all sides?"
But what we don't see, and what is completely
blind to us, is how much time and thought and effort and energy is consumed, and how many obstacles and barriers are inevitably self-created, from the innocent mistake of defining the made up "one cause", one side, one right, one wrong... Soooooooo much energy
that otherwise would be freed open, allowing our human and spiritual form to do what it already does beautifully all on its own... it heals, it explores, it connects, it awes, it imagines, it laughs, it plays, it creates, it discovers, it tumbles joyfully
in all its ups and downs, and it loves.
When we think we know the enemy or the single cause, we are defeated before we even begin. When we see our intrinsic connection to all of life, we are set free to explore the mystery of life and experience the adventure.
just in case of the very rare moments when I actually may be listening, could you please keep reminding me of all of this? As per usual, I expect to forget it in about five seconds from now. Five... four... three... two...
One of the regulars who attends the weekly Hangout at the homeless shelter is a lovely sweet soul of a man who despite (and perhaps because of) his many challenges in life, never speaks
about his past, never passes judgment, and never speaks in anger or accusation. If anything, he's only ever curious about the "whys", often trying to understand the sometimes cruel behaviours and motivations of others (which I'm guessing, points to some of
his past and current challenges). He is always full of questions.
He likes to talk about the latest events in the news... the boys trapped in the cave in Thailand,
the construction and development plans for the shelter, the latest weather extremes. He also likes to listen to the videos/audios by Syd Banks. We listen for a bit, and we often stop and chat for a bit, and he shares both his questions and his thoughts. He
has had many of his own insights into the illusory and constantly changing nature of thought and life.
Since his mind sometimes goes in different directions than
mine, I can't always follow his flow of thought or make the logical connection from one expressed thought to the next. But I can eventually piece together some general idea of what he may be articulating. And every once in a while
he says something brilliant that I happen to catch, that allows me to see something in a new way. (I'm sure he says brilliant things all the time, but I'm just not brilliant enough in the moment to notice. )
The other day, while he was melted into the big comfy chair in the meditation/prayer/spiritual room in the shelter, he said,
"We're like water. I'm in this chair, and my body folds into it, to match the form of the chair. It's not like this when I stand up. I'm completely different. I'm rigid."
And I thought, wow, we really are like water. In every brief moment our body and our mind are continually adapting to our continually changing environment. We have these incomprehensibly complex and intelligent systems (physical/mental/spiritual) that
instantaneously and miraculously respond to the form of whatever life presents to us... mostly without any conscious awareness. We sit in the chair and our body naturally slumps in. We stand up and our body knows to hold itself rigid for lack of any physical
support. Someone asks us any question, we recognize it and respond. We put any kind of food into our mouths and our system works with whatever it is. We fall down the stairs and our body responds to minimize the impact and figure out what to do next.
We are amazingly and inherently adaptable.
I thought about how incredibly
helpful it would be for every human being to see the significance in this... to see how much we are like water, and to realize how much we can trust in that adaptability, no matter what is presented. Even for the untold number of unpredictable daily events/thoughts/feelings
for which we've made absolutely no plans or preventions whatsoever, we still have access to an intelligence that always presents us with something to do next.
much more grace would we experience in life if we happened to discover this, not just as a good idea, but as something foundational about the miraculous nature of life, as well as a compelling and profound direction to keep looking in?
This week, after a fall down the stairs, and observing my own creative system of thought navigating life on crutches and improvising with a variety of other makeshift tools and supports to
complete tasks and move around, I'm appreciating and marvelling at my human "like-water-ness". And, with many of these daily tasks and movements now occurring at glacial speed, I'm also finding some amusement in learning new lessons about the illusory nature
of time. I'm like water, but really really slow water. LOL!
We got home, and they were gone.
While we were away on our 2-week vacation, our suffering neighbours renting the house next door, had packed up and moved away. Upon arriving home, several other neighbours that we ran into were abuzz
with the news, and inevitably exclaiming how relieved they were and how happy we must be now that they were gone.
For me, there wasn't any feeling of relief. Instead, I was a little sad.
When they first moved in about
3 years ago, the father, although a little rough around the edges, was relatively chatty and upbeat, enthusiastically introducing himself. However, not long after, the family dynamics became apparent... there was incredible verbal abuse by the father, possible
physical abuse, and mostly fear and cowering by the mother, the two boys (around 12 and 14), the girl (around 8), and the dog.
Over time, one relative and some other kids moved in and out, the father moved out, a boyfriend moved in and
out and back in again, another dog moved in, the home became full of loud and violent behaviours and addiction, the house and property fell into complete disrepair... broken windows and doors, graffiti and gang tagging on the walls, garbage and junk everywhere,
and there were occasional calls for the police and visits by social care workers. More recently as the boys grew into troubled and troubling teenagers, and dropped out of school, the home became a hangout for their fellow troubled friends. Our storybook on
this family is full.
There was INCREDIBLE suffering going on next door (as well as brief moments of laughter and kindness and love), and as much as I was sometimes an irritated recipient of their behaviours, and a "Gladys Kravitz" to their
ongoing drama, I also felt a great deal of love for them. I knew their suffering, just like my own past suffering, came from an innocent and very common misunderstanding about life, and I held hope for them to see something new.
we'd always say "Hello" to them when we could, we'd always shovel the snow on their sidewalk, we'd sometimes mow their lawn for them, and we'd drop off the occasional banana bread and care package on the holidays. We were never able to make much of a personal
connection with them, other than with a relative (who was fighting cancer) who stayed with them for about a year.
Being human, we didn't always live in a state of understanding and loving kindness for them. We would sometimes feel frustration
over the nuisance and destructive behaviours that would spill over into our lives and onto our property, and we would often be perplexed by their odd or inexplicable behaviours. And one time when one of the kids urgently asked to use our wifi to try to connect
via cell phone with their missing mother, in a bit of a fearful state, we said no.
And now they're gone... perhaps seen as a good thing in our neighbours' eyes, but in my eyes, a problem that our community still holds, simply moving to
a different location. Having a greater awareness of how we are all connected in so many complex and invisible ways, I know deeply how each one of us is intrinsically responsible for our greater community, whether the problems of it happen to be appearing next
door to us or not.
And with that awareness, my husband and I will keep on, as best as our humanity allows us in each changing and passing moment, to live in our community with love and understanding and support, and humbly accept our temporary
limitations whenever we don't. When our much loved neighbour sold his house several years ago, and it became a rental property that brought in a series of troubled and challenged families, we have ultimately been blessed with an abundance of experience, and
an incredible opportunity to learn and grow, and continue to learn to love without conditions.
I don't know who will be moving in next, and whether they will bring more joy or more suffering, but I do very much look forward to whatever
abundance of experiences and life lessons that we will be blessed with, no matter what.
Self-help, hypnotherapy, meditation, exercise,
goal-setting, achievement, accumulation of anything (money, power, fame, things), go-to-habits & behaviours, and the millions of other techniques we use to fix, or change, or control, or feel better, all focus on the form (the illusory, the constantly
changing). We want to change how we feel, and so we “do stuff” that we think will help us feel better. Sometimes the techniques appear to work, an...d sometimes they don’t.
But no matter the technique, they are always working on a moving target.
The Three Principles, and many of the wise throughout
time, are pointing to the formless (the truth of life), that when realized in some way, begins to “support” us in navigating life with more awareness, no matter our circumstances or how we feel. With any type of glimpse of truth, we begin to more
often catch the illusory nature of our thought (form), and more often realize our spiritual nature (feeling of oneness, feeling of common humanity, experience of the unconditional and impersonal).
Despite having had a glimpse of the formless, I still use techniques ALL the time, whether I realize it in any particular moment or not. I sometimes head to the fridge when I’m bored. I sometimes go for a walk when I’m
anxious. I sometimes watch a movie when I’m tired. I sometimes watch a Sydney Banks DVD when I’m feeling depressed, I sometimes explain my side of the story (get defensive) when I’m feeling insecure. Sometimes these interventions appear to
work, and sometimes they don’t. I also sometimes do all of those things when I’m NOT feeling bored, anxious, tired, depressed, or insecure.
from the perspective of the formless (the unconditional and impersonal), there is no right or wrong in what we do in form. And when we somehow get a glimpse of the formless, the form of life becomes more of a game to play, than a problem to be controlled
or fixed, and we get to begin navigating life with less intervention, and ultimately with more love and less fear.