Tag Archives: #listen

To Truly Listen

We had an open space session in one of our CPM retreats. And the topic was Silence – I went to the breakout room, and the session leader was there. He asked me, ‘Inside or Outside’ and I replied, ‘Does it matter?’ and he said no. We had just started a conversation when another person walked in, and Session Leader asked him, “Do you want to be outside or inside?” and he said, “Outside” and we had our topic discussion outside. As we were walking out I told the leader that I thought his question meant which topic would I choose – Silence inside or silence outside. We had a chuckle about it.

But this got me thinking. He said something, I understood it to be something, and we carried on with our logical yet misunderstood conversation. It was only when another person walked in the misunderstanding became clear. Now, this is a simple misunderstanding and did not have much of a consequence either. But I can imagine thousands of other conversations where I probably misunderstood what the other party was saying, or the other party did not understand what I was saying.

This is an issue because we humans use language as a significant means to communicate. How do we truly understand what the other person is saying? Does the other person even know what they are saying? Is there a meaning beneath the words we speak? Not sure, I have an answer, but I can offer the following viewpoints

Non Violent Communication: is the technique/practice that helps us listen to what is being said. It enables you to listen with your whole being without the senses to truly listen. “With NVC we learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others. Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC helps us discover the depth of our compassion. This language reveals the awareness that all human beings are only trying to honor universal values and needs, every minute, every day.” Check out the link for more information.

Silent Saint: Ramana Maharishi was also known as the Silent Saint – he rarely spoke, and still people got their answers. What would happen if we all went about our lives silently? When I go to Vipassana meditation I remain silent for 10-days, and there is a course for 60 days, 90 days where people stay silent. Life goes on well for them.

Does it matter: Does genuinely listening to other matter? We are a population of 8.5 billion on this planet earth and for the most part, life goes on with very few of use connecting with others.

Let’s talk a bit more about the “Does it matter?” – Can you imagine a world where we listened to each other without any bias/ judgment. Trust the process, and you get the results. For the most part your outer state is a reflection of your inner state. Being silent as we listen will ensure that we are heard. Understand to be understood.

Kindness – A Choice

I just finished reading the Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny. It is a series of murder mysteries set in the fictional village of Three Pines in Quebec. It is an excellent read if you read fiction books. Louise Penny does such a great job of describing the characters that you feel like you can just go to the bistro in the village and have a hot chocolate with them. The role that I fell in love with is Inspector Gamache himself. And what I like about him is that when people see him they see the kindness in his brown eyes. What kind of a person he has to be for kindness to reflect in his eyes?

He is an explorer not of places but human emotions.He goes in the inner crevices of the human being to find out what spark happened in their life which led to this murder. For somebody to go and explore that is a brave act. Because for me I am afraid to go into the dark corners in other people as I avoid it in myself – I guess. I believe that this ability has something to do with kindness.

For example, if you can spend a day as a beggar then you will have an understanding of the homeless, and it might change the way you see them, you think about them. But what it entails is that you can spend a day as a beggar – feel how they do, live in dirt and grime, eat leftovers. It is hard – you need empathy, the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and still retain the skill to be detached. Not easy – not for me yet.

Another trait of Gamache that I admire is his ability to listen. He listens and is not afraid of uncomfortable silence. He knows that it is only after the lull that storm arrives and you have to sit patiently through the hiatus readying yourself for the storm. I tend to fill the silence with unnecessary chatter because my listening muscle is weak.

What has empathy and listening got to do with kindness? Like everything in life kindness is a choice. And the decision becomes more comfortable if we have understood what the other person is going through or have sat through the silence which deepens the human bonds.

Why is it hard to do? We believe that we are the star around which sun revolves. We are the hero of the movie called life, and everybody else is the star-struck audience. It is hard for me who lives in a me-Centered world to step out of that role and watch somebody else be the hero in the movie. But the beauty of life and the secret of success is in living in the Other-Centered Universe. We can only flourish when we let other shine their light.

Next time you have the urge to show off your brilliance – hold it, nobody cares. For them they are brilliant and as in one of my previous quotes – people will forget what you said, what you did but remember how you made them feel.

No Need To Respond

A bunch of us were talking about our holiday plans for the year-end. The person sitting on my left was telling me about how he and his wife had gone to Brussels and spoke to this young girl who was traveling Europe with just a backpack. And I responded with, “I didn’t like Brussels, as it was frigid and all that seemed worth seeing there was the Manneken Pis.”

Now, was there genuinely a need for me to respond? Did he ask me about my experience in Brussels? There are a lot of such situations where I respond unnecessarily. How many times in conversations with friends and family I have ignored what they are saying and just butted in with what I think is more important. Most of the time I am talking to myself even in a conversation. The intent with which I have a conversation is one to reply not to understand.

Why do I respond when there is no need? There are many reasons. Primarily, I believe it is my need to show that I know more – a little bit of ego. Since I live in Columbus, I think I need to prove that I don’t belong to Columbus. Secondly, it is just lack of listening. I am not hearing, genuinely listening to what the other person is saying. Lastly, its because I am not intentional in my discussions. I am not sure myself on what the purpose of the conversation is and what my role is? Are they looking to pass the time, seeking advice, share good news or just need somebody to listen.

What are the few ways I can change this attitude?
1. Set the intention: If I even thought for a few seconds in any conversation about what my role is in the conversation it will be a lot better. If I am overtly aware that the other person is just filling their time, then I can focus my energies elsewhere. Or, If I determine that my purpose in this conversation is to set direction then I can respond accordingly.
2. Be Selfish: Dalai Lama said, “When you talk, you just repeat what you know. If you listen then you might actually learn something new.” Next time take the learning approach to the conversations.
3. Take small steps: If I decide to do the above in all my conversations, I will be exhausted. I might end up doing more harm with no progress. The next baby step is to start with one or two conversations a day and then build on that.

Silence is also an acceptable response and most of the times a better one.

Likes and Dislikes

Story 1: For almost a year in a row I had two apples for breakfast every day. I would wake up in the morning, use my apple corer, fill up a plastic cup and eat them during the car ride to the office. It was convenient, healthy and kept the doctor away. I don’t really care for apples though.

Story 2: I usually wear dresses to the office, personal choice. I like wearing dresses because they are more feminine. The day I turned up wearing jeans on Friday I got a lot of surprised looks and comments. During winter or around fall I wore jeans to the office during most Fridays. One of my colleagues pointed it out and said, “I thought you didn’t like wearing jeans.”

Story 3: I was introduced to Bikram Yoga by a friend in London. And I loved it so much that we rented a flat next to the studio. I went to the studio almost every day for two years. Then I stopped doing yoga altogether for six months and haven’t practiced Bikram Yoga since then.

This post is about likes and dislikes. I may like or dislike something but that doesn’t mean I am bound by some law to do what I like and not do what I dislike. For me, practicality and convenience overcome likes and dislikes. Eating an apple for breakfast made my life easy.
I was feeling cold in office and jeans kept me warm. It doesn’t matter whether I like jeans or not – for me being warm was more important than wearing cotton pants which by the way I do like.
My likes and dislikes change. I have no control over them like in the case of Bikram Yoga, hence I do not see the value in tying myself to my own likes and dislikes which change and are fleeting. Never say never.

We all have our pet peeves and the way we like things. We might like our eggs to be a certain way, we might like our co-workers to be a certain way or not be a certain way. The way we like our parents to behave, our partners to react, our pets to act… The list is endless.

That said I am also guilty of having an attachment to the things I like – I love having Indian tea with milk even though I am trying to go Vegan. I dislike drinking. We all have a strong attachment to things we like and aversion to the things we dislike. There is nothing wrong with liking or disliking something – we don’t have a choice. Our subconscious has already judged something but we do have control over our attachment or aversion to something.

Another thing is to note is that our likes and dislikes really don’t matter. We may not like rain but if it is raining we have three choices a) be upset about it (if you dislike rain) b) be happy about it (if you like rain) c) don’t care because it doesn’t matter to you. None of these three choices change the fact that it is raining. 99% of the time life is that way – the reality as it is doesn’t change and we have the freedom to choose our response to it.

We are all Mad

Adam and I were walking to a coffee shop downtown. I saw this lanky young man with a head full of thick curls walking towards us. He was talking non-stop and was holding onto his pants. As he walked past us I realized that he was talking to himself and not on bluetooth as I had assumed.

For some reason him talking to himself stayed with me for a while. I asked my husband, “What goes through your mind when you see a mad person talking to himself?” His answer was,”Compassion. I think that homeless people are judged twice – once because of their condition and second because of the way we treat them – with fear, pity , ignorance.” Did I ever tell you that Adam is a really nice guy?

My initial thought when I see a crazy person is Fear but not because I am afraid of them. I am scared that there is a very fine line that separates me from them. He talks out aloud where as my mind talks inside all the time. I will be honest and this is not an original thought (if there is such a thing). I read this in the opening pages of the Tolle’s Power Of Now. I read that book about ten years ago now and I am still evolving.

If you want to experiment – just sit quietly and watch where your monkey mind goes. There is no end to the branches it climbs. There is no rhyme or reason to the thoughts – there is no method to madness here. We all carry our monkey mind with us every moment of our living lives.

The difference between crazy person and sane person is that sane person does not talk his thoughts aloud. Probably because sane person is aware that is not accepted social behavior and partially because at some level he knows that whatever goes through his mind is not real. We can distinguish between what is real and what is not at some level. It is a very fine line though.

There is another distinguishing factor – sane person knows that he is not his mind chatter to a certain extent. Let’s say you are in an argument and your mind chatter is running amuck. It’s telling you how the other person is out to get you, they are lying etc etc. There are sometimes when you don’t listen to the mind chatter and you remain calm but there are times when you get carried away with what your mind is telling you. And you become your mind chatter – that’s when we have lost our balance. To use another analogy our head is under water,we have lost touch with what is real and we cannot see clearly. The times when we can ignore our mind chatter, realize that there are two sides to a story and stay calm are the times when our head is above the water.

The human life itself is a very precious gift and being able to watch our mind chatter is another gift – let’s make the most of it.

Listening – Muscle

I have a hard time listening to others. I am very good at listening… to myself – I am beginning to realize that I love the sound of my own voice. And recently with the change in my role as a people leader I find myself coming back to the listening more and more. Maybe, its because I am realizing that unless I learn to listen I won’t be efficient. And like everything else this is also an ability that can be learnt and it will take time.

I have given this matter – “Why I don’t Listen?” some serious thought.

REASON 1: I believe I know all the answers. I believe I am smarter than others and get to solution quicker. And maybe I can but that’s not the end – is it? I would never do something if somebody told me to do it – unless I realize that’s it something I want to do usually it means I have thought about it. So this applies to other people too. And it depends on the situation – if you know somebody is running towards fire then you will do your best to stop them and not listen to why they are trying to burn themselves. Most situations in life aren’t that dangerous or crucial.

REASON 2: I don’t have the time. I have other things to do and cannot waste my time listening to people talk. Really! That is not true. And irony is if I don’t slow down and listen now, then I will always be hurrying. If I have to make life easier for me then I have to slow down and listen to people.

REASON 3: If I am just listening then what value am I adding? I have to realize that listening to people, truly listening people is the greatest gift I can give them in this world. And it is definitely more valuable than talking.

Or sometimes I wonder if it is the fear of silence, un-comfortable feeling that arises when there is silence – does it mean I have to hold off a little longer. Give people some more time before wrapping it up or filling it in?

Talking takes up a lot of energy and most of what I talk is utter nonsense. Just to fill the space. There is a very little part of what I say during the day that really has to be said. Rest of the time I am just trying to prove how smart and important I am. Now – that has its own place but not all the time. So, even though I know all this then why is it so hard for me to listen? Because I forget, and old habits die hard. But all great journeys begin with one step. And I set the intent to listen every day. Even I fail to do that the intention is there and that is the first step.

Why do I feel it is important to listen? Because I feel it and at this point in my life it is something that I need to learn. Like my dad had said – “I am trying to increase my listening capacity.” He and my husband, Adam would know as they listen to me all the time. I am grateful for that.

I am on a journey and hopefully I am at a different station when we talk about this topic next.

Patience and Love

Let’s take two scenarios.
Scenario 1: You are having a really busy day – rushing from one thing to the other. You have had a whirlwind day – and you have got 15 minutes before you get on tube. You have been looking forward to the 15 minute break all day long and one of your old acquaintance from school calls you. She is looking for a job in your area and needs to touch base with you. Chances are that you are curt or don’t listen to her or listen to her but you just want the call to end. Or you may decide not to even pick up the call.

Scenario 2: Same day as before. And your sister calls you – you pick up the phone and are ready to do whatever she wants – even if it is a catch up.

Now in the above scenario the acquaintance/sister could be anybody can be but the point is if it is somebody you really care about that the conversation is really different. You are coming from a different space and are a different person as opposed to the one in Scenario 1.

Why is that? I am guessing its because we really care for person in scenario 1 than in scenario 2. And when we really care for that person we put them ahead of us – we move from being in a me-centered universe to a other centered universe [Exercises we learnt in CPM]. We are not thinking about how the 15 minute call is impacting me but instead we are thinking about how we can be of service to the other person even if it is by listening.

And in the above two scenarios our behavior was automatic as we have a relationship with those people which has grown organically that way. We did not consciously think about how we are going to behave with them. The key is we can choose the space where we come from regardless of who we are talking to. With people we care about this happens naturally. But next time our friend calls we can choose to be in that space where we are thinking about them.

I am not suggesting that we do this all day long – it would be ideal if we had the capacity to do so without disturbing our inner peace. But it seems like a good world to live in where we put everybody else ahead of us and are truly happy doing that. More and more we live in that space the more easier and nicer our life will be.

I am sure you are thinking if I do that more and more who will do my stuff? What about my thoughts and opinions? The answer is if you put others ahead of yourself the universe will do the same for you. If you don’t believe in the universe or an higher paper then I invite you to think – how important or crucial is the thing or comment you need to tell as opposed to listening. And in the previous example you were ready to use the 15 minutes for your sister so all we need to do is to expand the circle where we include more and more people.