This post is the third of three on the topic of mindfulness and listening.
Like most of us humans, I tend to listen from an unconscious stance of reactivity. That is, I hear what someone is saying, and I react quickly to the surface meaning of the words, the tone in which they're spoken, and the facial expression that accompanies them. Not mindful! I'm smack up against my identification with the words and emotions with no mindful breathing space between them. I hear the words, but I'm not listening because I'm reacting. I take a breath to reply, but I'm not taking a breath to consider and then respond. This can be a problem in most conversations, especially the challenging ones.
In The Wisdom of Listening, Margaret Truxaw Hopkins, a hospice chaplain in Santa Clara, CA, writes about simple listening:
"Listening skillfully requires us to get out of our own way. This isn't always easy to do. Listeners frequently have emotions within them touched by what they are hearing, and these emotions distract them from what is being conveyed by the speaker... Conflicting needs can derail the intention to offer a compassionate ear. So how does one listen skillfully? As one teacher summarizes it bluntly to his students: 'Shut up and learn to manage your own reactivity!' ... [T]ake responsibility for the thoughts and feelings that arise reactively and hold them in silent awareness, without judgment, while returning again and again to the intended focus of the speaker. It is much like a meditation practice. I watch my monkey-mind try to get control of the conversation. I breathe. And I gently bring my awareness back to the focal point of the speaker. I notice when I stray from this intention. I come back again to the focus. And then I do it again... and again. It really is this simple, at the heart of it." (pp. 51-52)
Listening skillfully to someone else takes practice, so in our meditation/mindfulness practice, we practice listening to ourselves first.
What are you noticing about your listening today?
for Mindful Monday
© 2014, post, Donna Pierce
Hopkins, Margaret Truxaw. "The Healing Power of Being Deeply Heard" in The Wisdom of Listening. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, Mark Brady, ed., 2003, pp. 51-52.
© photo, Wikihow, http://www.wikihow.com/Speak-English
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