“To listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”
Listening, deeply, is a lost art, it seems. As I have often said to many, we have two ears and one mouth…for a reason. We need only look at all that is happening in our world, our country, our communities. Everyone is talking and no one seems to be listening. So, what happens when those talking believe they are not being heard? They get louder. Louder comes in many forms. Organized protests, louder voices by individual or groups, repetitive speaking and not even attempting to allow the other to speak or answer a question, are a few of the ways “louder” is expressed.
What I feel goes hand in hand with listening, is observation. Slowing down to listen, deeply, allows us to hear, deeply, what another may be attempting to say. Not everyone speaks clearly or eloquently when they are excited, stressed or are hurting. When they are trying to be heard by someone whose not slowing down to “…lean in, softly…”, any number of outcomes is possible and none are good. Sadly, many do not even listen to their own intuition. How can they possibly deeply listen to another.
“The soul speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions.”
― Parker J. Palmer
I have launched a new page on this site, Compassionate Listening. I am not necessarily a fan of the moniker, “coach” for what I practice. Compassionate listening is what I really do. Within the quiet space of presence with another, I hear the entreaties of the heart. Listening slowly, I hear deeply, what is within the story being shared. From this place of deep listening, I offer observations and questions to facilitate self-discovery or self-generation in another. If you are interested or feel that having an objective and compassionate listener may be helpful for you, please consider visiting my page and reaching out via the link on that page.
May we all endeavor to slow down, listen and open to the possibility that something we hear may cause us to see something in ourselves which is awaiting our discovery.
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
– Chief Seattle
This is one of those quotes that so deeply resonates, reading it always makes me pause to have another look at where we are collectively, as seen through my eyes, perspectives and beliefs. We all do it. In fact, we probably need to pause and reflect more often.
Today, this quote reminded me of my experiences of a recent Saturday.
While enjoying my early morning cup of coffee, I remembered the Royal Wedding was being televised here, and early! While watching the ceremony and all that unfolded after the ceremony with the carriage ride, three words seemed to float in and out of my head (and my heart)…Love, Unity, Collaboration. If you saw it for yourself, rather than reading all of the commentary in the days following the event, you saw it through your own eyes, perspectives and beliefs.
Later that evening, I happened upon the Preakness. Watching bits and pieces of it, and reflecting upon races of the past, I started to see something that I hadn’t seen the same way before. Competition. Looking at all of those beautiful animals, no longer running free and trained to run hard and fast, I couldn’t help but look at it all from the widest view possible. Many people are or become wealthy in the horse racing industry. What happens to the horses? At what cost….being first, richer or above it all?
The bookends of that day captivated me.
For your thoughtful consideration, I offer the following.
There are many aspects of our lives on this planet which are replete with competition – in one form or another. Some of it is easy to see. Some of it is not so visible…and yet, it underpins so much of our day-to-day experience. It’s not for me to identify all of the ways we as humans are competitive or to offer my observations about any of it. I’ve brought this here your consideration, reflection and comment, dear readers. We each see the world, our experiences in it and what we observe of others, through our eyes (sometimes our ears), perspectives and beliefs.
Words are one of the most powerful tools we have in our communication tool box.
“Every criticism, judgment, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need.”
— Marshall B. Rosenberg
Let that quote settle for just a moment.
Consider your thoughts about yourself and others.
Most of the time, the way we regard ourselves is directly connected to and informs the way we regard others. It’s apparent in our conversations, our thoughts about others, and most definitely in our behavior.
Marshall Rosenberg’s work is among the most important bodies of work that many people have never heard of. He spent his life helping people, communities both in this country and in many others, to communicate more directly, compassionately and authentically. Non-violent communication (NVC) contains a number of tools for supporting essential change in the ways we interact and communicate with each other as individuals and in groups and in our communities.
“All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished.” — Marshall B. Rosenberg
The shaming and blaming that is, sadly, a significant part of our public discourse, has its roots in our feelings and whether we believe that our needs are being met. These are the foundation of our behavior.
Understanding ourselves is an important aspect of effectively communicating and connecting with others. If we are not aware of our needs, we cannot clearly communicate in a meaningful way with another. The Needs Inventory, is a list that may be useful in beginning to identify individual needs. Until and unless we become familiar with our needs, chances are that the way we communicate with others will not change. When we are familiar with our needs, communicating our feelings can facilitate the process of taking responsibility for meeting our own needs. The Feelings Inventory provides a list of feelings which can be a wonderful tool for communicating with others and can result in changing the quality of our interactions, deepening our connections to others and ultimately allowing us to become more responsible for meeting our needs.
Taking responsibility for ourselves is one of the most important tasks of our lives. Leading our lives; being individually responsible for our thoughts, actions, and feelings, is what each of us is up to, in our own way. Each of us has our own specific evolutionary intentions. Being responsible for ourselves is an aspect of our journeys which is common to us all.
The Spring is a time of renewal, re-birth, starting anew and beginning again.
May we resolve to soften our thoughts about ourselves, that we may soften our thoughts about others.
May we speak to ourselves with love and compassion, that we may offer love and compassion to others.
May we open our hearts, to learn what we may not yet know about ourselves, that we may be open to others, especially when they are hurting.
“What I want in my life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on a mutual giving from the heart.” ― Marshall B. Rosenberg
The last couple of weeks have certainly been filled with many tragedies and triumphs, as is more and more the case in our current milieu. When I find myself wandering into the darker places of despair, hopelessness, with sprinkles of “giving up”, I remind myself to widen the lens on the view I am taking of all of it. By taking a moment to look at the bigger picture – the one within which all of this is occurring – I reclaim my inner peace and acceptance of what is unfolding. I remember that I am responsible for doing what I can do – right here, right now. Consciously choosing to maintain perspective is one of my contributions to the shift that is underway.
Here are some things I have noticed.
The name of the high school where the most recent mass shooting of innocents took place is Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The sign on the grounds of the school show its name as “Stoneman Douglas”. The letters on their baseball case, as worn by major league baseball players last week in their first Spring training game of the season, were “SD”. Although many media outlets are properly referring to the school by its full name, it is apparent that the school system does not. Stoneman Douglas by itself removes immediate attribution to the very powerful woman for who it is named.
Our societal penchant for shaming and blaming is on display nearly every day, somewhere, in some situation where unexpected and tragic or difficult events take place.
A focus on mental illness seems to be a rallying cry by many who seem to believe the reasons for mass killings is mental illness…not the guns. Sad truth is that it is both.
And here is what I feel is at the core of the above:
The patriarchy has been at work in subtle and not so subtle ways for many, many years. Taking away or changing names is a dehumanizing practice which has been in place for many tragic chapters in the history of human experience. From the victims of the Nazi’s to the Native Americans and slaves, this has been done over and over again. So removing the first name of the woman for whom the school is named, and choosing to use the names which are masculine seems yet one more example of this dehumanizing or, perhaps in this case, removing the feminine (and powerful) reference, changes something.
Brene Brown said, following the August 12, 2017 white supremacy rally which resulted in the death of one protestor in Charlottesville, Virginia, that “We use shame when accountability isn’t working.” I believe that we use shame to distract from taking responsibility for our beliefs and resulting actions – whether in speaking, arguing or not listening to others who may see things from a different perspective than we do.
Mental illness seems to be the scapegoat of many a blaming individual or group for what is deemed by them to be “wrong” in any given tragedy or situation which doesn’t have the outcome they believe is the “right” one. Yet, if we take the even broader view of mental illness while considering what may be at the deepest roots of this tragic epidemic in our society, we will see a group of people who will not rest until the middle class in the US is gone, their health benefits completely inaccessible, while costs of living survival continue to skyrocket. And we wonder why we are where we are.
I have faith. Our world is changing and people and even some governments are waking up in many places on our planet. I feel it.
The young people in this country, led by those who most recently were witness to the tragic loss of friends and yet one more layer of their innocence, have courageously stepped up to channel their sadness and grief into a powerful effort to be heard. They are not going away.
More importantly, they will be eligible to vote in the next Presidential election in 2020.
Finally, I am reaching back once more to Brene Brown’s perspective following the events in Charlottesville last August, for inspiration and hope for our future. She reminded us of these:
Privilege is NOT how hard you work.
Perspective taking through the lenses of age, race, etc. is essential to coming together – listening and beginning to understand.
Power is infinite; “power to” and “power with” will move us forward, “Power over” is seeing its last stand.
She reminds us, “…the stories we own, we get to write the ending. If we don’t own our story, it owns us.” I feel this is true for us as individuals and, by definition, as a collective of humans on this planet.
I leave you with a quote from the late Stephen Covey, from his wonderful book, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People; Habit number 5:
As is often the case, I happened upon a couple of posts over the last couple of weeks, that were rightly timed…just what I needed. The first was an excerpt from a chapter in David Whyte’s book, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.
“We are here essentially to risk ourselves in the world. We are a form of invitation to others and to otherness, we are meant to hazard ourselves for the right thing, for the right woman or the right man, for a son or a daughter, for the right work or for a gift given against all the odds. And in all this continual risking the most profound courage may be found in the simple willingness to allow ourselves to be happy along the way…”
Soon thereafter, I came across a chapter in a book I am reading. This excerpted section of the book is a bit longer than the quote above and yet is very important for what I wish to share with you this day.
“Self Expression – This is the greatest strength of the individual and of a thriving society as a whole. It is the aspect of the individual that is most suppressed in societies that seek to create a sense of blind obedience and mindless consumerism. The institutional influences on the will of the individual will often seek to devalue the inherent gifts, talents and passions of the individual in favor of a lifestyle that forces the individual into a more traditional role of wage earner, consumer and rule follower. Self-expression can be seen to be dangerous to that type of institutionalized structure; creativity will be undervalued, and those who operate outside of a created structure of limitations will be viewed as delusional or dysfunctional. Structures will be put into place that create divisions in the structure; those who fit in will find their sense of identity with the crowd, while those who do not will be outcast and left to find their own sense of identity.”*
Do you see where this is going?
Finally, as I was reading the WordPress Reader one morning, I came upon a post by one of my fellow bloggers, at Healing Your Grief. I hope you will take the very few moments it will take to read this brief, yet powerful post. It truly is the period at the end of the sentence and purpose of this post. The Egyptian goddess warrior Isis reached out to me in that post, and I hope you will find her for yourself as well.
We are all worthy of ourselves, our love, the expression of our hearts. Often it takes great courage to step in the arena to simply be ourselves rather than succumb to doing what we have been told, or trained to do. I recall a time in my life where I believed I was not creative. I recall attributing that trait to one of my sisters who has painted and sketched beautiful images. I started to wake up to the possibility that creativity was indeed alive in me, in a very different way, when I considered the challenges of parenting, leading an organization and finding ways to honor and support others – children, colleagues, etc.
I am grateful for the “bread crumbs” that the timing and sequence of the appearance of these posts came to mean for me. After a couple of challenging weeks, I felt I was beginning to lose my footing in the world of self-expression, which for me is writing in this space, at this time. Believing my foundation was solid, I discovered that the foundation is ever shifting and as long as I follow my heart, write what I feel and experience, I am risking myself in the world, in the best way for me.
I’m happy to be here and am grateful for all who read, and comment on anything I offer here.
*Mike Dooley with Tracy Farquhar, From Deep Space with Love: A Conversation about Consciousness, The Universe and Building a Better World (United States; Hay House, 2017); p.35
As I often do in the last month of the calendar year, I review posts in my journal from the previous months. I’ve done this for several years and found it to be a wonderful way to see my growth, progression and evolution. Changing my mind and opening my heart more and more to life – both its challenges and rewards – makes all of the difference in the way I greet and move into and through each day. Each day is different and for that I am grateful.
I came upon an entry in my journal from this month, last year (2016). The election was behind us and the emotions which were pouring from people on both sides of the outcome were vivid. As is my practice, I looked at what I had written and considered my observations of that day and what I see today. I reflected on where I was then and where I am today as well. The words reflect both my observations, and upon reflection, I believe my feelings as well.
~ ~ ~
There are many terrified children all around. You will know them by the adult suits they are wearing. Their behavior is a give-away, too.
Anger and condescension mask a deep fear within. They are over-compensating to cover their beliefs that they are unprepared, unworthy and simply aren’t good enough or don’t have all they believe they need to be where they are. In addition, they are defensive and very reactive. Everything is a crisis which must be tended to and fixed right now!
They come across as confident and controlling when in fact they are not confident, and everything – in their mind – is completely out of control.
What do these people need?
A steady, easy open-hearted soul who sees them for who they really are in this moment – another soul currently living a separated life. They need a person who can compassionately hold the space while listening to and allowing them to be who they truly are. This melting process – the shedding of armor – will take time. The reward is more joy – awakening with a sense of calm, peace, acceptance of life – as it is.
No need to fix, control or manipulate any of it. Just let it be.
~ ~ ~
We have one year of great change nearly behind us. I’ve had many opportunities to remember the importance of caring for myself. It is so easy to become distracted by the many events unfolding in our world today. What I know for sure is this: joining the negative voices – however passionate – does nothing to contribute to the healing of our planet and its inhabitants. Focusing on the beauty that we get to enjoy; taking good care of our bodies, minds and spirits; and engaging in more listening and less talking can make a positive difference in so many places – even in places that we have no idea we are impacting.
As one of the young people in my life says, “All acts impact.” I believe she is absolutely right about this.
So, before we speak; before we take an action; before we make a choice of any kind, perhaps taking a moment to pause and consider the energy that is informing and therefore infusing the act will give us an opportunity to make the best choice; to say the best, most positive words and bring more love, peace and joy into our world.
Let’s breathe before we respond, rather than reacting to so many things.
Let us practice be-ing and allowing others to simply be.
Let us free the scared child within. Let us hold him or her in our arms and provide a safe place for them to be the child they are. By seeing our scared inner children we will see the same in others. Compassion for self, compassion for others.
Let it be.
The hummingbird is a symbol for the enjoyment of life and the lightness of being.
On my “About” page on this site is this sentence: “My deepest desire is to inspire others to live a life that is free, open and enjoyable, rather than living a life that feels controlled, constricted or over-managed.”
This comes directly from my human experience. For a very long time, I felt as if I was living a life that was controlled, constricted and over-managed. For years, I was medicated to get through it all. At one time, I was taking many antidepressants while being treated by a therapist and a psychiatrist. Now, I know that this isn’t everyone’s experience. I DO know, it was mine.
I AM human…and I wish to be real, authentic and honest. I cannot offer wisdom, thoughtful writing or comment, without being authentic. And…I have my days, too. I have to remind myself that I am in this world…I am not of it.
It was only a few years ago that I was a highly functioning (federal) executive, and wife and mother to two sons and a step-son. Life brought its joyful moments, and they were few and far between (from my perspective only). I have always taken life very seriously and worked hard to hide, as much as possible, my deep suffering. Some thought they knew it well, others may have seen glimpses. I knew it ALL.
I awoke this morning feeling very tired, even though I slept reasonably well last night. I meditated, knowing that time spent in quiet listening would support a “re-start” to my day. Well…not so much. I realized about mid-morning, that I was feeling a deep sadness. I did not feel fear, although I suppose some would say there is a lot to fear in the current milieu. This was clearly sadness. I just couldn’t wrap my head around all of what is happening in our world today. In fact, the only word that came to mind was “unconscionable.” So many things simply do not add up or make any sense.
As an empath, I often find it challenging to know whether what I am feeling are my feelings or the feelings of others. I am highly sensitive and find that retreating from a lot of what we are all exposed to daily, is essential to maintaining my health and well-being. So today was a banner day for those feelings that I couldn’t reconcile or otherwise understand.
I have always found the beach to be a healing place. It is a place where I can be still, listen and find quiet calm within while in the presence of a very powerful and beautiful force of nature. I went there today, seeking that peace, solace and calm.
The lovely space I met just a week or two ago was nowhere to be found. There were lots of people. The sun was bright, the breezes light and the noise level higher than I had experienced in many months. In all its beauty, the noise and relatively small crowds were just too much. I lasted about an hour. I am happy to see that so many people love and enjoy the beach so much that a beautiful day like this one wasn’t to be missed!
I didn’t leave with anger, frustration or anything like that. I simply honored the fact that the space is for everyone…and just not for me today. The short drive home provided time to reflect. I spent some of that time looking at the sadness and seeking to understand what was at its core. And even this experience had something for me. Finding the salve for my wounds and hurting places within is changing…and likely for good reason. I am grateful for the ocean, the sand, and the noise of people enjoying it all today as well.
As I reflected, I came to see more clearly what was contained in the sadness. What I feel pervades nearly everything. Our planet – everything living thing on it, people, animals; our safety, access to health care, clean water and food; those whose homes have been demolished, and who have nothing left. They’ve lost loved ones, a lifetime of memories and joyful experiences. It all is so hard to feel some days. Today has been one of those.
I know that many have struggled with the changes that we are all facing. I have found it to be more or less challenging as well. I do know that we are resilient. We are individually powerful and deeply loving, compassionate people. I feel that we will navigate these very choppy waters with all of the love that is within us. We will find a way forward that loves, honors and respects each other, regardless of our differences. In fact, we will begin to appreciate and see the gifts in those differences, for everyone has something to offer.
When I got home, I found this quote:
Sometimes surrender means giving up trying to understand and becoming comfortable with not knowing.
Surrender…yes, there it is again. “Becoming comfortable with not knowing,” creates space for more love and healing to enter.
We are not weak, we are sensitive.
We are not lost, we are wounded.
We are not troublemakers, we seek only to be seen, and heard.
We are human.
May we all surrender to love. May we all pray for healing and in so doing, envision ourselves holding hands while we navigate these times together.
All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.
— Friedrich Nietzsche
Walking is something that we do, unconsciously every day. We walk from here to there…for a purpose. Our minds are engaged in any number of things when we are walking. Rarely do we walk, more slowly, with intention.
Walking with intention, we slow down and see what is around us. We begin to relax as we surround ourselves in nature. Perhaps nature is more difficult to engage living in a cityscape. Find a local park. Just get back to YOUR nature by being in and with the nature of Mother Earth. Here you return to yourself; here you return to your true nature.
Walking with intention, in nature, we listen. We hear the intuitive wisdom of our souls. We lead our lives with intention when we listen to and heed the guiding messages of our hearts.
Take my hand. We will walk. We will only walk. We will enjoy our walk without thinking of arriving anywhere. Walk peacefully. Walk happily. Our walk is a peace walk. Our walk is a happiness walk.
Then we learn that there is no peace walk; that peace is the walk; that there is no happiness walk; that happiness is the walk. We walk for ourselves. We walk for everyone always hand in hand.
Walk and touch peace every moment. Walk and touch happiness every moment. Each step brings a fresh breeze. Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet. Kiss the Earth with your feet. Print on Earth your love and happiness.
Earth will be safe when we feel in us enough safety.
Thich Nhat Hanh
From “Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh,” Parallax Press, Berkeley, California, 1999, p. 194
Just for today…walk, with intention.
Then tomorrow, walk again. Let this become a habit so that it becomes your practice.
When you look at the sun during your walking meditation, the mindfulness of the body helps you to see that the sun is in you; without the sun there is no life at all and suddenly you get in touch with the sun in a different way.
A look in the mirror reveals so very much. We choose to look or not. If our choice is to not look, gazing into our own eyes may reveal our perspective on a deeper darkness that we prefer not to see. Often, we have a look and begin to judge what we see – eyes, wrinkles, imperfect skin, graying hair; all of the things society tells us that isn’t right about us. There is great power in looking – deeply looking – at who we are, beyond the surface which reflects back our self-judgments (grounded in our beliefs). Rather, gazing with gratitude for the beauty of the soul within can bring an appreciation for Life and the miracle of our presence here, now.
As we are nearing the end of another calendar year, many turn to this time as a period of reflection to begin to discern the blessings and lessons of the previous year.
There are many “out there” who are reporting on all of the “good and bad” of the year’s events. And yes, many of those world and national events are definitely worth considering in our reflective moments. Our challenge, and the greatest gift to be realized, is contained in reflecting upon our individual experiences – which may include our perceptions of those events.
Truth is relative, as we each perceive our own truth through the filters of both our beliefs and our many life experiences. Realizing that such filters exist is the beginning step in realizing that others may see the same event very differently. Perhaps more importantly, no one is seeing it rightly or wrongly.
The beautiful images continued in this post show us very different reflections of what is above the water. Some are clear, others somewhat distorted. All have natural light – some brighter, some darker. Isn’t this also true about the many ways in which we and others perceive our life experiences, the many events – beautiful and tragic – that occur in our world every day?
Upon reflection, we see. Upon reflection, we hear. Upon reflection, we discern the lessons and blessings of a day, a week, a month, a year…or a lifetime. Upon reflection, we come to know that truth as discerned by humans is relative. We know from nature that what is real is visible there.
You know all of this. It is intrinsic. You need only find your way back to the truth of who you are as a spiritual being…in this human experience.
How will you choose to create time and space for reflection? Today, tomorrow, every day?