"Mindfulness and Meditation allow us to open our hearts, relax our bodies, and clear our minds enough to experience the vast, mysterious, sacred reality of life directly. With Practice we come to know for ourselves that eternity is available in each moment.

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Just Listen

"Listening is a very deep practice.You have to empty yourself. 
You have to leave space in order to listen...
In deep listening we listen with the sole purpose of 
helping the other person feel heard and accepted." 
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

"Healing comes from our innate capacity for deep listening.  
This deep listening or seeing is not through our eyes or ears, 
but through our heart and soul."
-- Jack Kornfeld 

There is, perhaps, no more important form of meditative discipline than what Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh calls deep listening.  It connects us to ourselves, to one another -- and to our true nature.

Our time on the cushion in formal meditation is essential.  Yet, it is what happens next that really matters. It is there, in the midst of our day-to-day lives, that our kindness, compassion, and wisdom are actualized -- or not.  

Beans in our Ears

Most of us have learned the prevailing form of listening in our society.  Much of the time we don't really listen.  We listen, not to connect deeply with the experience of another, but to reply.  Although our ears and eyes and finer sensibilities are operational as we listen, most of our attention is absorbed into the commentary running through our heads.   

As a matter of habit, we automatically analyze, compare, judge, relate it to an associated personal experience, advise, counsel, or otherwise react without a deep awareness of what is really going on -- either inside ourselves or the other person.  As a result, whole realms of emotional and intuitive energies remain beneath the level of our awareness.  Rather than connect, we often end up bouncing off one another.

It doesn't have to be this way.

We can actually learn an entirely different way of listening to another person -- and to ourselves!  We can go deeper.  We can empathize.    
Thinking Outside the Box

Empathy is a skill.  It can be cultivated. 

As Thom Bond, Director of the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication, has written in The Compassion Course, an on-line year-long offering that I've taken (and encourage you to consider,) "Empathy is the exploration of our human experience... our feelings... our needs... our life energy trying to emerge and guide us.  It is the mindful questioning, the wondering and the genuine curiosity about what we or someone else is going through." 

What prevents us from being present in this way are the habitual patterns of thought and feeling that emerge as we communicate.  In particular, Judgement Mind, that cluster of thoughts and feelings that stem from an our strong views about right/wrong, good/bad, valued/worthless, often dominate our awareness.  (See Your Courtesy Wake Up Call: Judgment Day).  

As Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) pointed out, this judgement mind is actually embedded deeply in the language we use.  Our language emerged in a world that was based in the oppression of most of humanity by the power of the nobility and church. The very way we think and communicate continues to reinforce patterns of control, not patterns of compassion. 

Yet, as the Tibetan Buddhists do in analytical meditation, it is possible to use our thinking mind to move beyond itself.   

I've found that the worldview and skillful means presented in the teachings of Nonviolent Communication can do just that. We are given a way to speak and listen to one another differently.

NVC supports us to be more deeply mindful of the specific words we use, the array of emotional energies that are present, and the underlying human needs involved in our interactions.  Used in combination with the quality of consciousness that emerges as a meditation practice deepens, it can be a game changer.  With commitment and Practice, our communication can become Communion.

How cool is that?

NVC: Here's your Chance!

The 2020 Compassion Course has extended its registration period until July 1. Presented as 52 weekly online lessons , the course includes weekly exercises and the support of on-line forums, a Facebook group, and monthly interactive call-in sessions with the trainers.   I've found it to be a wonderful support for anyone wishing to cultivate their capacity for greater self-awareness, empathy, and compassionate communication. 

The Price?  They have made it readily accessible to all.  YOU chose whether and how much to pay.   Check it out.  The 2020 Compassion Course.

Here's a quick overview:


KD said...

So glad you posted Thom’s Course. It’s a gem. The once a month calls if you can attend (always optional) is both inspirational personally and reveals that of our global humanity is “listening” to a calling for healing, growth and compassionate presence. In the 10th year of this course it is has bloomed internationally; 13 different languages. I remember my first days of NVC classes...using the limitations of our language from which to intentionally respond in ways that consciously and compassionately expressed a heart felt connection. What a challenge! So glad I have chosen to stick with it. I can’t imagine life without the connection opportunities that accompany this path. This Course articulates what and how to cultivate levels of understanding in those “impossible” moments with family friends and foes. Becoming aware of the wild mind in the realm of unmet needs, monkey mind tendencies with its talk show strategist, and beginner mind with that openness to what is possible, positive and doable. Living compassion a must for all of us...many paths
one vision. πŸŒΏπŸ™πŸΌπŸŒŽ❤️

Lance Smith said...

Thanks for chiming in with this beautifully written comment, Kathryn. (This would be a nice FB and/or blog post with a link to his site, no? hint hint. LOL)

Yes,it's wonderful how Thom Bond and his folks have brought NVC forward into the world with ever-increasing depth and breadth. I've followed the unfolding of NVC since I stumbled across Marshall Rosenberg's 35 page pamphlet on NVC "hot off the presses" back in the 80's in a visit to New Society Publishers in Philadelphia when I was a member of the collective at Center for Conflict Resolution in Madison, WI. Thom Bond continues to add an ever-deepening ability to communicate the spiritual dimension of NVC. Jai Guru Deva Jai.

"Becoming aware of the wild mind in the realm of unmet needs, monkey mind tendencies with its talk show strategist, and beginner mind with that openness to what is possible..." I love this passage. I know that you've been participating in a serious writing group for awhile, Sister. Are you getting some of your stuff "out there,' in some way these days -- besides that group and an occasional sparkling comments here? (In a good week, I get maybe 250 pageviews?)

You, my dear CircleMate, are an able and experienced Elder with a lot to offer. I often find your written (and spoken) words inspiring. Although there are a gazillion brilliant folks doing brilliant work out here, the sky's the limit, no? And, as you and I both know. It's limitless!
One Love,