I am a lover of revolutions, of disruption…. of chaos. I know that at the core of all of those things are art and beauty. Today’s guest blogger writes and teaches us how the act of listening is revolutionary.
Promise all these little hard, edgy, crabby, scared, dark parts of yourself that you will listen.
There is a long list of possible reasons why it is difficult for people to listen—to themselves or others or the wind in the trees. Our minds are cluttered with thoughts and their isn’t room for listening, we are habituated to make up stories and believe them, we already think we know everything, we’ve never been listened to by others or at least we feel this way.
And also, listening is down right scary.
If we really take the time to be present and listen we might find things out about ourselves we don’t want to know, we might feel things we are scared to feel, we might lose whatever semblance of control we think we have, we might hear things from others that are hard to hear.
We might get angry. We might be overcome with sadness.
We will be vulnerable. Most of us like it when our experience appears to be clear, certain, and unambiguous (and happy). Rarely does our emotional life, or the rest of our lives, behave in this way.
At the same time listening can be a way toward clarity and integration, but only if we are willing to listen to it all—messy, confusing, scary, embarrassing life. We can probably only do this if we are more interested in what is real and present than in how we want things to be.
I am more interested in meeting life as it is, than in trying to get it how I want it to be—but that doesn’t mean I won’t complain if things don’t go the way I think they should, or be frustrated, or angry, or disappointed.
All these feelings are part of reality for most of us. And we can cultivate a presence of listening that we can always come back to, this sweet tender open awareness that is here whether we’re happy or sad, judgmental or mad.
Yes, this listening can seem to bring forward what is hard, but the listening presence itself is tenderness and love.
There are parts of ourselves—feelings and experiences and thoughts—most of us would rather get rid of than get to know. I want to encourage you not only to leave these parts of yourself alone and stop trying to pull them up like weeds, but even to make space for them to get some sunshine and listening presence.
It is my experience that everything that is here—every feeling, thought, being, tree—wants to be experienced and acknowledged. This doesn’t mean we have to do anything about any of it. It doesn’t mean we should say every thought or express out loud every feeling we have, it just means we shouldn’t deny that they exist.
Take a moment in silence or write down on a piece of paper all the things you would rather not listen to about yourself: all the feelings, habits, experiences that you would rather just go away than acknowledge.
Be bold, don’t hold back, we all have this list inside of us.
Once you have the list, know that you don’t have to approach them all at once. How about one at a time, or maybe just once a week?
Oh, things will come up all the time, and when they do you can just add them to the list if you don’t have the time to be present with them then, and promise all these little hard, edgy, crabby, scared, dark parts of yourself that you will sit with them, will listen to them, but just not all at the same time!
But if you do promise, then you must follow up and listen.
It turns out feelings (just like our family and friends) get really pissed off if you say you are going to listen to them and then you don’t.
Here is the start of my “What I Don’t Want to Listen To” list: My tiredness, my anger, my frustration, my fear about money, my fear about the future, the reality that is different from how I want things to be, the possibility I won’t get what I want, my sadness, my aches and pains…
It turns out that listening to ourselves with tenderness and care is not selfishness at all, but the ground of love. It is here, where we are willing to bring open awareness to our own experience that we begin to build the soil and grow the garden of compassion for ourselves, our friends and family, our community and our world.
What are you listening to and not listening to today?
Jasmine Lamb is a teacher and healer. She writes the blog All is Listening: Tools and Tales for Breaking Up, Waking Up, and Falling in Love. She is author of the forthcoming digital book, A Call to Listen: How to Start an Inner Revolution.