Recently I met a new friend! Meeting new friends is always energizing and fun as you explore each other’s worlds and get to know one another.
We have a lot in common; a lot of life experiences in common, a lot of life perspectives in common, and a love of the written word in common. And then there are all the differences in our journeys through life that make us unique. It is such a refreshing experience whenever I meet up with her.
But what I realized I most valued and appreciated, was that I like who I am when I am with her. I feel not only free to say a lot of things I might not say to others, but I hear the authenticity and honesty in the way I express myself. I discover huge chunks about myself that had been somewhat buried in my consciousness.
She creates that space for me to express myself by being who she is, and hopefully the reverse is also true.
I realize that it has been a long time since I have felt this free to be me.
I got to thinking about the relationships we have with people and how we slide into habitual ways of being that are often limited by thought patterns established long ago. We tend to think we know the other from our experiences together, and they become the brain tracks through which we share. Some people I open up more to about my inner, vulnerable feeling world. Others I keep at a distance. I know the subjects to stay away from if I want to avoid conflict, I know what pushes their buttons, they know what pushes mine, and so the dance of each relationship is molded.
I wondered how it would be if I consciously took that wonderful sense of loving who I am in my new friend’s presence, into established relationships.
Getting into a Listening Space
Years ago I learned a listening technique that I really liked, and I then created a small group I called the “Listening Group”. The rules were simple. One person would be the time keeper and one person would talk. The allotted time was 20 minutes. The only questions that could be asked of the speaker were for clarification of something said. Otherwise, NO other communication, especially no feedback. The role of the listeners was to hold a ‘sacred space‘ for the speaker, to NOT think of solutions, or identify from experience, rather to hold attention fully and completely on what the speaker was saying. It was to keep a mind clear of thoughts and allow the speaker to be truly heard.
What would so often happen, was that as the speaker talked, and felt really heard, the solutions to an issue or ideas and inspiration would arise and a bigger picture would emerge. This was especially true if the speaker had a really troubling and confusing issue. It is said we all have our own answers within, but we don’t take the time or make the space to hear those answers. That was what this group provided – that opportunity.
AND the listeners were able to develop listening skills. Mind wants to come up with answers or reactions to what others are saying and we frequently interrupt others with what we think. Therein lies one of the most valuable healing opportunities we can offer another – to truly hear. In the process we open up a space for Presence. Conscious listening teaches us that while we don’t necessarily have the answers for others, we can be a channel for Presence.
Being Listeners for Ourselves
Developing the skill to hold a sacred space for listening doesn’t only apply to others. We can apply this skill to ourselves. Meditation is an excellent practice to develop listening skills. I have heard it said that in prayer we ask and in meditation we hear. So we make space in meditation. As we learn to release the busy chatter of the mind in this way, space opens up – an inner stillness – through which inspiration from Presence can be heard.
The Second Question
So the second question to ask yourself is who in your life do YOU give the opportunity to authentically be him or herself?