Listening is love

I’m grateful to have been invited to join the radio program  An Organic Conversation  on March 17.   The topic is  listening as love.  To me, this is the magic of mindful communication. Here’s a simple formula for this:  Stop!   Look!   Listen!

STOP:  The first stage of mindful listening is to work with our speed and distraction.  We need to simply stop, let go, make space.  We spend our lives running away from open space, from the ‘dead air’ of silence.  Before we can listen to another human being, we need to be capable of listening to ourselves.   This is why sitting meditation is so important.  The meditation journey trains us relax and let go of distractions.  We unmask the boredom and restlessness to discover what our minds are really capable of.  Gradually we learn to settle down peacefully, able to listen.

LOOK:  There is a certain moment when our attention shifts from ‘in here’ to ‘out there’.  Imagine that our attention is like a beam of light.  At that moment, it expands outward, illuminating the space around us.  Before we listen to someone’s words, we listen with our eyes, all our senses.  Our natural communication system of Awake Body, Tender Heart and Open Mind tunes into the whole environment, a signal that we are open.

LISTEN:  Now that we’ve opened the senses of our body, the vulnerability of our heart and the curiosity of our mind we’re able to have a fresh experience.  What is this fresh experience?  Being completely open like this, with no hidden agenda is not a dry, empty exchange.  When we’re openly listening to another human being, the space is warm and tender.  Because the ‘me-first’ barrier has dissolved, this space is a mixing zone where you can’t find the dividing line between ‘me’ and ‘you’.  Instead there is awakeness, which lets you be who you are.  There is tenderness, which enables me to feel what you feel.  There is curiosity, which asks you to go on, ‘please tell me more’.  Whether this is a short conversation with a stranger on the bus or a life long conversation with a partner, listening openly like this is what it means to love.

Tune in on March 17 and we’ll see where this goes.

Love to you all.



Magic Mirror and Weasel Words

Using mindful communication as a relationship practice is like a magic mirror.  Just like the fairy tale queen, we want this mirror to tell us the truth but secretly we sometimes would rather not know.  If we look carefully into the mirror of our conversations, it’s possible to catch our blind spots.  For a mindfulness practitioner this is very good news.

Red light conversations go along with our blind spots instead of revealing them.  One of the ways we trick ourselves into this is by using ‘weasel words’.  These are words that say one thing but mean the opposite.  A green light conversation holds up the mirror that clarifies this difference.  Here are some examples:

When boundary  really means barrier:  Clare says to Paul:  ” I’m strengthening my boundaries and putting myself first.  I could care less how you feel.”

When love really means possessiveness:  Jack says to Charlene:  ” I can’t live without you, I love you completely– except when you disagree with me”.

When validate means to justify:   Jane says to Betty ” what kind of friend are you?  Why can’t you stand up for me, I need you to validate my position.”

There are countless examples of the little tricks of self deception that slip into our conversations and our relationships.  Practicing mindful communication means we have a chance to work with every conversation that arises in the course of our daily life and be on the lookout for those clear mirrors that reflect how we can be more open and honest with ourselves and each other.