The Gift of Listening
Listening is an amazing gift that we can give to others. It seems so simple, so obvious, and yet how rarely this precious gift is given to another. Listening is perhaps the most important gift of all that we can give.
When Barry and I were both twenty seven years old, we left our formal education. Barry left his psychiatry training after one year and I left my job in child sychiatry. We traveled for one and a half years in search of a different type of education, one that could not be taught in schools. We wanted to learn more about ourselves and deepen our spiritual life together. This was a scary time for us as everything was unknown and we had no plans, but it was also very exciting.
We decided we would spend several weeks with each of our families on the east coast to get to know our relatives again. We had been away for 10 years.
I will never forget a party Barry’s parents gave in honor of our coming. All of Barry’s east coast relatives, mostly from the New York and Brooklyn area, came to the party. They were all happy to see us and greeted us with much love.
Everyone wanted to know what job Barry was taking. We tried to explain that we were not working for awhile and were on a quest to learn other things. This was seen as strange and the subject was quickly changed. Soon all the relatives were talking to each other and we were sitting amongst them very quietly observing what was going on in the room. Everyone was talking at the same time and no one was listening. The volume increased at a steady rate. I felt strange and out of place.
At that moment Barry’s Uncle Ralph came over to us and asked us to join him in the kitchen, away from most of the noise.
“So tell me,” he began, “all about this time off from work. What are you hoping for?” Uncle Ralph then sat very quiet and listened to all we had to say. He asked us questions and then he listened to the answers. After an hour of listening very attentively to us he said, “Well I’ve never done anything like you are doing and I don’t know if I ever would, but it does sound exciting and I’m sure you are going to learn a lot. I’m proud of you for taking the risk to do something different with your lives. Thank you for sharing it all with me.”
Uncle Ralph had given us an enormous gift just by listening to us. He was the first person that had taken the time to listen and try and comprehend what we were doing. We felt so much better and our quest seemed less scary.
In every workshop we give participants an opportunity to heartfully listen to another person, practicing being receptive to what another has to say. We teach active listening skills, including the asking of questions to direct another into a deeper experience, and then allowing enough silence to allow the other to express him or herself.
Look at your own relationships. Are you more interested in telling someone something, or are you more interested in deeply listening to the other person. Every good relationship needs to have both. It is important to remember that a true gift that we give to another is to just listen. We can’t fix or change another person’s situation, but we can listen and be there fully.
We can listen without judgement or fear to our mate, child, parent, friend or co-worker. In just being there and holding a space for sharing we are giving a true gift of ourselves.