Listen within, listen within.
Practice it on the outside then take it closer and then deep within you.
Bring it into your heart.
There’s a lot of talk about listening at the moment. I think a lot of people here got hit with it over Brexit, we realised that there was a whole bunch of people in this country who don’t feel listened to, and they’re angry about it. One hears similar things from the Trump supporters in the USA. My friend Maggie Sawkins is developing work out of her long experience of listening in the mediation process, Sofia Bustamente is holding a number of “Listening Cafés” (I went to one, it was great, you should too if you can find one near you). There’s also a bit in my walking in the woods video about active listening, listening as a meditation. It’s all part of the same thing.
The insight I’ve had lately is that some people need to be helped to move beyond listening as transmission or rather reception of information and towards something about being human and being one with each other. That’s the sort of beautiful awakening that starts when you work with someone on this or they walk into a Listening Café. They realise there’s more to this activity than receiving information, there’s a whole physical experience that we’re used to denying and missing out on and only doing on the surface. We get to listen to someone else deeply and realise we could be doing this more, maybe not all the time, but that it’s a thing you can do and it would have value if only because it feels really good and connects you to something that you heartily miss.
The next level is starting to realise that you don’t need someone else in the room. That actually you can start practicing this with yourself because there are plenty of unlistened to, unheard voices within you, all clamouring for attention because they’ve been ignored for many decades. Day in, day out, they just chat away but you’ve learned to put the outside world first. Even though they’re singing beautiful little songs or imagining that cloud is a spacecow with wings, or telling you that you’re lovely and much loved, they’re inside and we’ve told ourselves that that means “not real” and so not to be listened to.
What if they were the most real? What if they were your connection to what is most real and true about you? Yes, silly sometimes, childish and childlike, fantasy spinning and extravagant but also innocent, trusting, loving, simple and true.
So then what happens when you start actively listening to them? Listening to the silence before they speak. Listening by feeling something in your heart softening and peeking out from beneath that boulder that you thought you’d squished them under. What do they say today? Listen, listen to every word until they’re finished. Write it down if you need to. After all, that’s exactly what I’m doing right now and thank you for listening this far.
A big, grown-up and slightly cross and frustrated part of me is afraid of all this. This part is habitually afraid. He says “Yes yes, I heard you, you are completely safe, your fears are all lies, yes I get that”. He does get it, but there is a but… “But today we need to earn at least £100 and the same tomorrow and tomorrow. That’s an agreement we’ve made with the world to keep going and bring in money in order for us to live here in the way that we’ve chosen.”
Yes. That’s true, we do have an agreement and we will keep to it the best we can but we have other agreements in place that also need to be honoured. The mistake is to put either of these voices in complete charge. My role listening within is just like the one I play in the outside world (that place where you see me “facilitating group processes” or “making social art”). It means listening to everyone and orchestrating the different abilities and needs for an outcome. That way we can satisfy everyone’s needs for expression and to be heard and to be part of the whole group. So today when I hear the money voice, I call him my Finance Director in loving tribute to all those accountants behind whose backs I’ve cursed bitterly. I love and accept the Finance Director as a part of my team, I don’t hush him, I don’t push him away, I just listen and hear and accept what he has to say. And I call on all of me to see what we can do together. Not because the finance is the most important thing, but because it’s an important thing among many others.
Anyway, this is my thing. This is what I do for myself and I can help you do it for yourself too. If you like it you can just take it and enjoy for itself, but it may also be a signpost to something in you that needs attention, something that I can help with and something that you might so appreciate that you would reward me with tokens of that inner appreciation you feel. The sorts of tokens, in case it’s not clear, that are also appreciated widely in banks and stores and government offices. Something like that would be peachy.