Several years ago, I attended a five-day retreat led by a fairly well-known author and spiritual teacher. It was held in a hotel near an airport – not at all that I would call a retreat-type setting. That’s ok, I was there to learn. And learn, I did.
I was a few moments late arriving for the early evening opening session because of traffic. Driving through both Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD, during the evening rush hour (two beltways in one trip) isn’t easy and is, at best, unpredictable. And we all know that we have no control over these situations no matter how much extra time we allow for our trip.
Needless to say, I wanted to hang out in the back and listen rather than walking in to find a seat – even in the back of the room. One of the retreat assistants directed me to a vacant seat in the back. I told her I would prefer to stand and wait until the break. She insisted that I go take that seat. I am compliant and dutiful…so I graciously proceeded in the direction of the seat.
I immediately became the example, for this author, to make a point of reminding the group to not be late returning from breaks. His eyes were on me and others turned around to look. There was nothing to say in that moment; so I kept making my way, calmly, to my seat. Upon sitting down, I thought it best to take a couple of deep breaths before taking out my journal for note taking.
In that moment, I knew I had a choice. I could either feel embarrassed (or shamed over something I could not control) or I could allow it to pass. I chose to allow it to pass. I did not want the busy mind chatter to distract my listening as I was taking notes.
As the retreat continued over the next several days, I started to see how edgy this author was. No doubt he had some powerful messages to share, and indeed has shared those messages in more than 10 books. I was glad that I attended and learned what I learned – both about the author, how he is perceived by others and more importantly, the messages that he shares.
It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed. – Ram Dass
Here is where our discernment becomes our greatest tool for our growth and evolution. How we listen affects what we hear. We respond or react based upon the filters in place while we listen.
It can be difficult to hear a message when we are distracted by the behavior of the messenger; our reactions to said messenger, and the voices in our own heads which have so much to say! All of these influence what we hear and how – or if – we respond to what we have heard.
I’m reminded of how our wounds (which can and often do become our judgments) become the filters that are barriers to what we may need to hear, or to see about ourselves – as delivered by a messenger. I recently heard Charles Eisenstein say this: If I’m in judgement it means my understanding is deficient.
So, I just wonder…if I am in judgment and my understanding is deficient, would I have turned around and walked out of the retreat after being singled out? Probably not. The old shame I carried wouldn’t have allowed it. I might have waited until the break to make my escape! My higher self knew better from the moment it happened that something else was going on. AND, I know that in my past judgments of others, I simply did not understand what was really happening. Worse? I did not take time to inquire…to learn…to understand.
Our quick reactions, our judgments and our busy minds can get in the way of experiencing relationships – deep, intimate and connected. Listening deeply requires suspension of our busy minds and engagement of our hearts. Judgments evaporate, busy minds are quiet and we have a real opportunity to experience being present to another soul. What a truly sweet, soft space of being this can be.
As I reflect today on that retreat experience of more than eight years ago, I know that I made the right choice to remain engaged. I met some wonderful people and learned so much more about myself than I could have anticipated. I still refer to those notes today.
We receive messages all of the time. Most of the time we may not hear them or believe that what we think we have heard was intended for us, anyway. After all, we are human. Our humanness is both a great gift and a great challenge for our souls in these bodies. Embracing our humanness with all of its foibles can provide us opportunities to appreciate who we are, why we are here and allow ourselves to slow down, relax and truly know what is for us and what may be for someone else.
If you want revenge because your feelings are hurt, all you can see is your own suffering. But if you calm yourself and look more deeply, you will see that the person who hurt you is suffering, too. – Haemin Sunim
Notice distractions. Ask questions to better understand rather than simply judging the messenger and missing the message altogether. Enjoy the human process, experience and journey.