Deep Listening

As you sit there sipping your coffee or surfing the web, others are on the verge of making the most difficult decisions of their lives. Maybe the decision was made before, but today they will put that decision into action. I’m not making any life-altering decisions today, but I remember what it was like.  What do you say to someone on the brink? What do you do?

I remember hearing people’s stories and thinking to myself, “I would never….” After being the one with the terrible story, I vowed to myself that I would suspend judgement. No matter how much you think you know about a situation, you don’t know everything. It’s not your situation. You are not living it. Recognition of that fact has left an indelible impact on me. We like to think decisions fall into good/bad and right/wrong, but the big ones are rarely that clear-cut. It’s complicated, and it’s personal.

More than ever I realize that listening is a gift. In You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment, Thich Nhat Hanh describes how we can ease the suffering of others.  He states, “If the person you love is suffering, you can say a third mantra: ‘Dear one, I know that you are suffering. That’s why I am here for you.’ You are here, and you recognize the fact that your loved one is suffering. You don’t need to make a big deal about it; you just generate your own presence and say this mantra. That’s all.”

He explains:

“A mantra can be expressed not only through speech, but by the mind and body as a whole. The fact that you are there with the energy of your presence and understanding, and the fact that you recognize the presence of the other person and their suffering, will give them a great deal of relief. Some people suffer deeply but are completely ignored by others. They are alone and isolated, so cut off from the rest of the world that their suffering becomes overwhelming. You must go to them and open the door to their heart so they can see the love that is there” (p.93-94).

(If you want to learn more about this, you can view an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh on You Tube. He talks about deep listening at about 10:36 of the 20 minute interview. It’s worth it.)

The last thing I do is pray. When I have faced some of my life’s darkest moments. I couldn’t pray, I think I was just numb or in shock. Somehow knowing that someone else was praying helped. What do you do?


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