Listening with Compassion
By far, the most common and important way in which
we can exercise our attention is by listening...
True listening... is always a manifestation of love”
~ M. Scott Peck
I’ve been a therapist for more than 33 years, and a mindfulness teacher for more than 25 years - but since the killing of George Floyd – have never been so inspired by people - in both therapy sessions and weekly mindfulness classes - having necessary, wide-ranging and powerful discussions on racism, marginalized communities, unspoken privilege exerted by both race and class, and more. Since my private-practice and mindfulness classes have people of all races, religions, life-styles, and political views, listening without an agenda - session by session, and class by class - has created profound learning experiences for us all. Compassionate listening - and looking deeply - gives us a chance to understand people who are different from us, whether they are in our own family, or our community. With mindful, compassionate self-awareness, we can also become more aware of our own firmly-held, and previously unexamined presuppositions towards what is being said, or towards who is saying it. Our mindful awareness and mindful listening creates and sustains our own inner revolution, one moment at a time, and one interaction at a time This intentional and wholehearted ability to listen without an agenda is very difficult without regular practice. But it is worth the practice. Listening this way makes all the difference in any interaction, relationship, or community. It is the basis for feeling safe, for healing relationships, for reducing “Us”-ing and “Them”-ing , and it develops the mutual ground that is essential in promoting peace. MINDFUL PRACTICE: The following practice cultivates mindful listening and self-awareness by using a few references brought up in recent discussions. Begin with sitting for a little while until you become relaxed and aware of your felt in-breath and out-breath. Next, out loud, slowly and quietly read each of the following reflections a few times. Noticing if any thoughts or feelings resonates with what you hear. As you read these, open to what writer Mark Nepo defines as listening: “In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”
“Violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr. (1967). Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?. p. 67.
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it." -The Talmud
Peace Prayer of Saint Francis Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.