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.
I recently attended a CPM alumni retreat in London. And it has been a decade since I took the course first at London Business School. In the first class Prof. Rao invited us speak about what we want from the class. And at that time I was at crossroads in my life journey – on how I want to live my life. I asked – “I would like to know by the end of the course what choice should I make?” And prof. replied, “Well, I am not sure if you will find answers but you will definitely have more questions.”
That answer did leave me perplexed because I believed that all things should have an answer – a very clear, direct, black and white answer. And CPM started me on a spiritual journey and I haven’t looked back since then. I started doing yoga, meditating seriously, hanging out with the likes of Eckhart Tolle, Ramana Maharishi and recently I discovered Michael Singer. And ten years have gone by and I meet people who are starting on the journey. I find that my language has changed since I started and sometimes I am not able to relate at that level. And I discussed this with prof. and he said, “Of course, that would be the case because the person who took the course first time does not exist anymore.”
That was that – as simple as that. And it is true isn’t it, all of us are no longer that person anymore and that is how nature intended – change is constant after all. But some of use refuse to let our old selves go and we hang on to them and wonder why we are not evolving.
It’s like you had a tiff with somebody ten years ago and you decided you are going to remember the hurt forever and in some cases we even say, “I will remember this for seven lifetimes.” Well, have fun hanging on to the hurt that was probably caused by some misunderstanding on your part. This is just one example of how we do not let ourselves go. Yes, we hang on these bits and add to the building blocks of our prison.
Our existence on earth is not a sprint its a marathon and you have no way of figuring out who started out when. But, if you believe that you have evolved then you act as a guidepost for other people who are on the same track like how people ahead of you did for you. All the people in your life, all the interactions you have are sign posts to guide you on your journey. It doesn’t matter whether you liked them or not. For example, you are on your way from A to B and a signpost points to the left and says B <-- This way. But you decide to go forward because you don't like the color of the signpost. It doesn't matter what the color is - what matters is the direction on it.
That person does not exist anymore – it is really powerful to know that at many different layers.
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.
In one of my previous blogs I had talked about the 10 Paramis or Virtues. Today I want to talk about one of them which is
6. Khanti: Patience
May I ever be patient.
May I be able to bear and forbear the wrongs of others.
May I ever be tolerant and see the good and beautiful in all.
Like everything else this also has many layers to it. First stage is trying to get over the fact that it doesn’t matter if I think the other party is wrong or right – focus is on me being able to bear it and be calm about it. Second stage is just the limits to which you can bear it – like my previous blog about bending in the wind. If you are working to develop this parami then with every such incident in your life you bend a little bit more before you snap right back up. And like all great things in life this takes practice too. The more you practice the more you will be able to bend without breaking or snapping up.
Forbearance or self-control is the ability to exercise restraint, to stay in balance. It is disciplining yourself to be measured and temperate in your response to trying circumstances. It is being patient and even keeled while enduring hardships. It is having the ability to constrain your own worst impulses and allowing thoughtful, wiser aspects of yourself to govern what you say and do.
Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Forbearance protects us against doing harm on impulse in the throes of anger or fear. Since so much of virtue is about finding a balance point between two kinds of excess, forbearance helps to keep us close to the center of our better selves.
What does it mean for us in real life? If somebody is annoying you then a)you don’t get annoyed b)you are still at peace c)you are grateful to that person for helping you strengthen your practice of Khanti. This depends on what your overall goal is – let’s say your goal in life is to get retired at the age of 50 or another goal could be to the better version of myself. How you approach a situation will depend on what goals you have? If all you care about is making money and retiring early then you will have a short-sighted approach. Where as if you want to be happy peaceful forever you will adopt a long term strategy of developing your patience.
It is possible that you can still practice patience with the goal of retiring early – the point is sometimes you have to revisit your ultimate goal to put this virtue into practice. These things take time and when the student is ready the teacher does appear. And also it depends on how important it is for your to develop this virtue? To reach to the point of ultimate patience is really long and every journey starts with small steps – it is only by taking one step a time then we complete out journey with Patience!