Tag Archives: Listening

I Can Barely Say a Word. It’s an Interesting Situation.

voice-300x200 (1)I lost my voice.

I woke up with a sore throat, then gave two long talks, back to back, at a conference and then — wham, my voice went out.

I thought it would be back this morning, but no luck. My sister and I were supposed to record an episode of our podcast, but that just wasn’t possible. When I told my husband I was going to try, he laughed. “You’re not recording anything today,” he said.

It doesn’t hurt when I try to talk — but practically nothing comes out.

It’s been a very interesting exercise in silence and listening. For instance, when I walked my younger daughter to this school this morning, it seemed odd not to chat. We often walk for several blocks in silence, but this time, we walked in silence the whole way. It was a companionable silence, but it wasn’t as companionable as talking.

On the other hand, she told me, “It’s very calming, your whispering. It’s like being in yoga. I feel like harps should be playing.” So that’s nice, I guess.

I’ve also realized how much I talk to my puppy Barnaby. I hope he doesn’t think I’m angry at him; I’m not saying a word, when usually I talk to him quite a bit — which I’d never realized.

This morning, I was on a conference call, and I explained by email ahead of time that I wouldn’t be able to talk much. I thought that I might listen more acutely, given that I wasn’t talking, but to my surprise, I found it harder to listen. It’s like knowing that you’re going to be called on in class — you pay more attention when you know you might be put on the spot. Because I knew no one would expect me to participate, I felt less pressure, so I had to work harder to stay focused.

One hilarious thing: when I have to talk, it’s much easier to whisper, and people always whisper back to me! Apparently it’s very tough to speak in a normal voice to someone who’s whispering.

It has been interesting, if involuntary, experience, but I sure hope my voice is back tomorrow.

Have you ever lost your voice? How did the silence and the listening affect you?

 

Also …

4tendencies-blue2-300x321Do you love to take quizzes that teach you more about yourself? I sure do. If you’d like to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, take the Four Tendencies Quiz. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken it.

 

 

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

Put Yourself First

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Why putting yourself first is the best choice for everyone.

We all experience moments when we feel torn between doing what we desire, and doing what we think is in the best interest of another. Sometimes we forget that those that love us also want what is best for us, and the best thing we can do is set the tone by making self-care a priority. Here’s what I mean…

I found myself in an interesting position this morning. I planned on taking a yoga class this morning, which I love and feel is an important component of my self-care on all levels. But last night my boyfriend and I got into an intense discussion, which left me feeling worried for him, wanting to care for him and make it all better. When I woke-up I found myself torn between my desire to go to class, and a thought that I should stay in bed and make sure he felt cared for.

It’s not as though an extra-long cuddle was in any way unappealing to me, yet I projected my mind a couple hours ahead, and could feel a nagging sense of disappointment that I didn’t stick to my plan to go to class. And not because I wanted to adhere to the plan, but because I could feel how badly my body wanted a led yoga session. Yet I still felt torn…and guilty. Continue reading

An Exercise in Listening

Just because we are in our bodies does not mean we always know what it’s saying.
It can also be easy to push past what our bodies are telling us when we’re at a loss.
Our overwhelming exhaustion can be ignored when we have commitments to meet.
The unsettled feeling in our gut can be explained away as indigestion.
But our bodies are also highly sophisticated machines that can do so much more than we give credit for, often times. So are you listening?

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 9.47.06 AM

So let’s do a quick exercise in listening. Continue reading

The Improv Rules For Better Relationships & a Better You

Screen shot 2014-02-18 at 9.33.42 PMI’ve had trouble with social anxiety since I was a kid. For holidays I would hide in the bathroom or some hidden corner of my room just to avoid having to talk to family members we didn’t see on a regular basis. Today I am the most grateful person for Dominoes online ordering service so I don’t have to actually call the store and converse with whoever answers the phone. Initiating conversations in general sounds pretty horrifying as far as I’m concerned (note my job as an internet blog editor).  So it is with a great flare of irony that I didn’t find my footing in Los Angeles until I started taking improv classes at Upright Citizens Brigade.

For those not familiar, Upright Citizens Brigade specializes in long-form improv. So you and your scene partner start having a conversation and build a comedic scene around a “game” or a repeatable funny idea. And it’s all made up on the spot. So basically, you spend 3 hours a week for 8 weeks starting random conversations with people you just met. At the end of the course you then try to have one of those conversations (praying it’s funny) in front of every friend and family member you could convince to pay $5 to see it. It’s insanity – the definition of my worst social nightmare – and it’s the best thing I’ve ever gotten myself to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I have to pry myself off the back wall for every initiation I make. I want to throw up before 90% of shows I do and when I see the pros do it I am astounded at their ability to make it look so easy. What I’ve learned through my two years of classes and indie shows though has not only helped me develop as a performer (When I moved here I would rather be hit in the face with a shovel than be accused of being an actor, but now I have head shots. It’s definitely part of the dream) – but the rules of improv have helped me become a better person in life. Don’t believe me? Try a few of these basic principles and see the good it does for your own relationships.

1. Listen – This is the first and most important rule of creating any scene – but it should be the first rule of any interaction you have. Get out of your head and stop thinking of what you’re going to say next and actually take a second to hear the words someone else is saying. Watch their body language. Take notice of the intonation of their voice and make sure you understand what it is they are trying to tell you. For better or worse, everything said at the top of your scene if your foundation but it is only through listening that you can lay down bricks next to each other in a coherent fashion. Listen first, and you’ll be shocked how much easier it is to talk second.

2. “Yes and…” – Tina Fey has a similar list to this in her book Bossypants (which everyone should read) and she talks a lot about the “Yes and..” rule. This is actually the first thing you learn in improv. Your job as a performer is to agree. What does this mean? Don’t deny anything your scene partner says. You do not have to agree with it, but you’re not allowed to negate it or say that it isn’t true. It’s disrespectful and ruins the progress their contribution made. In real life terms, saying yes being means staying open to someone else’s ideas. It goes hand-in-hand with listening, really. The truth of the matter is that we’re all on this planet together and no one gets anything done alone. Honestly, it’s a lot more fun when you’re contributing together and a lot less stressful than trying to build an empire by yourself.

That brings us to “and..” This is the hardest part. You have to agree, and then add to the conversation. You have to participate. Otherwise you leave your scene partner doing all the heavy lifting and often times a scene will stall. It’s the same in life when you just plod through saying yes without actually getting involved. You become an inactive observer and before you know it you’ve watched so much go by without ever being part of it. So be open and jump in.

3. Be honest – When you’re building a scene it only works when everyone agrees that what you’ve built is real. If halfway through someone says “Ha, but I lied!” then it negates all the work up until that point. If you tell one lie then it’s impossible to be sure if anything that you’ve said has been the truth – on stage or off. An extension of this is don’t be coy. A lot of beginner improvisers will pretend to have a secret or delay saying their full idea because they think it will prolong the scene but really all it does is prolong the frustration. When you’re direct with what you’re thinking then it can be dealt with and built into the universe. When you’re dealing with real life relationships being direct may cause more confrontation initially, but the problems can be dealt with immediately and you learn only to make issues out of things that you really care about. When you purposefully try to be sneaky you waste scene time on stage, and you waste time in your relationships, for what? Something you’re going to have to deal with eventually, so just do it now so you can move on to better things.

4. Be a human – My favorite improv coach started our first class by saying the most popular critique he would give us would be “Be humans to each other.”  It sounds like common sense, right? I mean, how would we not be human to each other? What he meant was to combine all of the aforementioned rules and react to our partners like real people. We may be making things up but comedy comes from truth and you create a richer scene when you play it real. Being a human means you have to listen to what your scene partner says and be affected. If they insult you then you need to be honest and show that you’re insulted. If you’re not insulted then you better “yes and…” with the reason why. Sometimes in the real world we don’t take the time to be affected by the things around us. We’re moving too quickly in our own bubbles to absorb the events in our lives. When you take a second and process how something makes you feel and you react honestly to it you make progress. You learn. You grow. You’re more empathetic to others and you’ll find that it’s much less stress for you.

Improv hasn’t changed who I am, but it has given me several tools to be a better version of it. I will probably always choose the online option over calling it in, but at least I know I can get off the wall if I want to. I know that not all the pressure is on me, and if I can listen and react honestly then there’s the potential to create something out of nothing. Isn’t that the magic we’re all looking for?

How do you try to be a better human? Share in the comments below! 

What Your Chit-Chat Says About You

61098Conversation is more than an art. The spoken word can convey confidence, power, and authenticity. Uttering those first words when you meet someone new can make a great first impression and lead to success. Wouldn’t you like to reduce the stress of a courageous conversation and know how you really appear to others?

Here is what your conversation style reveals about you:

1. You speak rapidly and a pause in the conversation makes you nervous.

Most likely you have a heightened sense of responsibility. However, a conversation involves two people. You don’t have to do it all and this will help you learn to delegate all other things in your life. Give the other person a chance to participate. Breathe slowly and deeply before you speak and make it a point to be silent and reflect. Know that great music depends on pauses.

2. You speak about the present; for example, what is going on at the party, the heat wave, the crisis in Syria, or the latest movie.

This is a great attribute because you are alive and alert, not rehearsed. This type of conversation immediately involves the other person and you are focused on active listening.

3. You have rehearsed a couple of great anecdotes or stories to insert in any conversation.

You like to prepare in advance for stressful situations and imagine successful scenarios in your mind. However, avoid coming across as over-rehearsed, or reciting monologues while not listening to what the other person is saying because you are thinking about what you need to say next. Ease up on yourself and release your spontaneous side too.

4. You ask a lot of questions.

Clearly you are interested in the other person, but you might appear to be an interrogator. While conversations thrive on questions, plan on sharing more of yourself: Experience, philosophy or feelings. Don’t hide behind the questions.

5. Your humor is sarcastic.

While sarcasm reveals a solid intellect, overdoing it might make you seem critical and negative, alienating others who don’t want to become the subject of your sarcasm. If you find yourself piling on the sarcasm, go the other route: Use self-deprecating humor.

6. You immediately share your own experience when someone reveals his.

For example, if the other person was sick in the past, you were even sicker or if the other person had a harrowing travel experience, yours was worse. While you are basically trying to validate the other person by sharing in the universal experience, you might appear to be self-centered or a bit narcissistic. Listen attentively and nod in agreement. Simply, let the other person know something similar happened to you and wait for a follow-up question.

Build up your likeability and credibility. The essentials of good conversations involve keeping an open attitude and avoiding absolutes. What works for me is taking on the role of a student instead of a teacher – even though I was a teacher for many years. Radiate good energy with a smile and make eye contact with soft affirming eyes, similar to welcoming someone into your home. Liberate your natural self, so if you meet again, you will not have to remember what mask you wore.

The Sacred Art of Listening – Nourishing Loving Relationships

✿ Celestial ✿
To listen is to lean in softly
With a willingness to be changed
By what we hear   

-Mark Nepo

What happens when there’s a listening presence? When we’re fully in that listening presence, when there’s that pure quality of receptivity, we become presence itself. And whether you call that God or pure awareness or our true nature, the boundary of inner and outer dissolves and we become a luminous field of awakeness.   When we’re in that open presence we can really respond to the life that’s here. We fall in love.

This state of listening is the precursor or the prerequisite to loving relatedness. The more you understand the state of listening– of being able to have the sounds of rain wash through you, of receiving the sound and tone of another’s voice– the more you know about nurturing a loving relationship.

In a way it’s an extremely vulnerable position. As soon as you stop planning what you’re going to say or managing what the other person’s saying, all of a sudden, there’s no control. You’re open to your own sadness, your own anger and discomfort. Listening means putting down control. It’s not a small thing to do.

We spend most of our moments when someone is speaking, planning what we’re going to say, evaluating it, trying to come up with our presentation of our self, or controlling the situation.

Pure listening is a letting go of control. It’s not easy and takes training. And yet it’s only when we can let go of that controlling that we open up to the real purity of loving. We can’t see or understand someone in the moments that we are trying to control what they are saying or trying to impress them with what we are saying. There’s no space for that person to just unfold and be who they are. Listening and unconditionally receiving what another expresses, is an expression of love.

The bottom line is when we are listened to, we feel connected. When we’re not listened to, we feel separate. So whether it’s the communicating between different tribes or religions, ethnicities, racial groups or different generations, we need to listen. The more we understand, the less we fear; the less we fear, the more we trust and the more we trust, the more love can flow.
 
Isn’t it true to that to get to know the beauty and majesty of a tree
You have to be quiet and rest in the shade of the tree?
Don’t you have to stand under the tree?
To understand anyone, you need to stand under them for a little while
What does that mean?
Its mean you have to listen to them and be quiet and take in who they are
As if from under, as if from inside out.

Adapted from my book Radical Acceptance (2003)
Enjoy this talk on: Listening with an Awake Heart
For more information, visit tarabrach.com.

Prayer in the Face of Difficulty

Happy Deepavali

Ask the friend for love

Ask him again

For I have found that every heart

Will get what it prays for most.

Hafiz

 

When offered with presence and sincerity, the practice of prayer can reveal the source of what your heart most deeply longs for—the loving essence of who you are. Perhaps without naming it as prayer, in times of great need and distress you may already spontaneously experience the act of doing so. For instance, you might find yourself saying something like, “Oh please, oh please” as you call out for relief from pain, for someone to take care of you, for help for a loved one, for a way to avoid great loss.

If so, I invite you to investigate your experience of prayer through mindful inquiry, asking yourself questions such as: What is the immediate feeling that gave rise to my prayer? What am I praying for? Whom or what am I praying to? The more aware you become of how you pray spontaneously, the more you might open to a more intentional practice. Below are some guidelines I offer my students for deepening their inquiry:

 

1. Posture for prayer: You might begin by asking yourself, If I bring my palms together at my heart, do I feel connected with my sincerity and openness? What happens if I close my eyes? If I bow my head? Find out whether these traditional supports for prayer serve you. If they don’t, explore what other positions or gestures feel the most conducive to openheartedness.

2. Arriving: Even when you’re in the thick of very strong emotion, it’s possible and valuable to pause and establish a sense of prayerful presence. After you’ve assumed whatever posture most suits you, allow yourself to come into stillness, then take a few long and full breaths to collect your attention. After a while, as your breath resumes its natural rhythm, take some moments to relax any obvious tension in your body. Feel yourself here, now, with the intention to pray.

3. Listening: With the intention of fully contacting your felt experience, bring a listening attention to your heart, and to whatever in your life feels most difficult right now. It might be a recent or impending loss, or a situation that summons hurt, confusion, doubt, or fear. As if watching a movie, focus on the frame of the film that’s most emotionally painful. Be aware of the felt sense in your body—in your throat, chest, belly, and elsewhere. Where are your feelings the strongest? Take your time, allowing yourself to fully contact your vulnerability and pain.

You might even imagine that you could inhabit the most vulnerable place within you, feeling it intimately from the inside. If it could express itself, what would it communicate? Buried inside the pain, what does this part of you want or need most? Is it to be seen and understood? Loved? Accepted? Safe? Is your longing directed toward a certain person or spiritual figure? Do you long to be held by your mother? Recognized and approved of by your father? Healed or protected by God? Whatever the need, let yourself listen to it, feel it, and open to its intensity.

4. Expressing Your Prayer: With a silent or whispered prayer, call out for the love, understanding, protection, or acceptance you long for. You might find yourself saying, “Please, may I be better, kinder, and more worthy.” Or you might direct your prayer to another person or being: “Daddy, please don’t leave me.” “Mommy, please help me.” “God, take care of my daughter, please, please, let her be okay.” You might feel separate from someone and call out his or her name, saying, “Please love me, please love me.” You might long for your heart to awaken and call out to the bodhisattva of compassion (Kwan-yin), “Please, may this heart open and be free.”
As you express your prayer in words, while staying in direct contact with your vulnerability and felt sense of longing, your prayer will continue to deepen. Say your prayer several times with all the sincerity of your heart. Find out what happens if you give yourself totally to feeling and expressing your longing.

5. Embodying Prayer: Often our particular want or longing isn’t the full expression of what we actually desire. Similarly, the object of our longing, the person we call on for love or protection, may not offer what we truly need. Rather, these are portals to a deeper experience, an opening to a deeper source.

As you feel your wants and longing, ask yourself, “What is the experience I yearn for? If I got what I wanted, what would it feel like?”

Use you imagination to find out. If you want a particular person to love you, visualize that person hugging you and looking at you with unconditional love. Then, let go of any image of that person and feel inwardly that you are being bathed in love. If you want to feel safe, imagine that you are entirely surrounded by a protective presence, and really feel that peace and ease filling your every cell. Whatever you’re longing for, explore what it would be like to experience its pure essence as a felt sense in your body, heart, and mind. Finally, discover what happens when you surrender into this experience, when you become the love or peace that you’re longing for.

6. Throughout the Day: While your formal exploration of prayer can create the grounds for weaving shorter prayers into your life, remembering to pray in the midst of daily activities can help you become aligned with the kindness and wisdom of your heart. Here are some suggestions

    • At the beginning of the day, set your intention by asking yourself, What situations, emotions, or reactions might be a signal to pray?
    • Before praying, take a moment to pause, breathe, and relax. While it is helpful to become still, there’s no need to assume a particular posture.
    • Pay attention to your body and heart, contacting the felt sense of your emotions. What are you most longing for? What most matters in this moment, and in your life, to open to—to feel and trust?
    • Mentally whisper your prayer. The words might come spontaneously, or you might express a prayer you’ve already discovered that’s alive and meaningful to you.

 

Adapted from True Refuge (January 2013)

Enjoy this talk on Finding Freedom in Difficult Moments

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

 

photo by: kdinuraj

Ear of the Heart

String of heartsMost of us consider listening a great virtue. We love having others listen to us with interest and care, and we hope to be good listeners ourselves. But for most of us, listening is hard. To listen well, we must become aware of the mental static that runs interference: our emotional reactivity; all the ways we interpret (and misinterpret) each other; our haste to prepare a response; how we armor ourselves with judgment.

 

Learning to listen involves stepping out of our incessant inner dialogue, and using what St. Benedict called the “ear of the heart.” This deep listening offers a compassionate space for healing and intimacy.

 

One of my meditation students, Kate, discovered the power of listening in her relationship with her mother, Audrey, a wealthy, successful, brilliant, and yet narcissistic woman. Those who knew Audrey well kiddingly referred to her as “the center of the known universe.” A well-known writer, Audrey treated other people as orbiting satellites, audiences to regale with stories; their role was to let her shine in her own reflected light.

 

Audrey could be lively and charming when holding forth, but she was exhausting to be around. As soon as they could, both of her daughters settled on the opposite coast. Kate’s older sister rarely returned for visits, and while Kate came for holidays, she kept her stays brief. Their step-dad loved his wife, but he and Audrey had drifted into a routine that lacked intimacy. Some of Audrey’s friends still tolerated being a captive audience, but as she aged she became increasingly isolated.

 

Kate came to one of my Conscious Relationship workshops to focus on her marriage, not on her mother. Yet, by the time she left, she’d become acutely aware of her mother’s woundedness, and of the possibility that deep listening might lead to healing. Her inspiration was the image of a fountain.

 

During the workshop, we envisioned our inner life and spirit as a fountain that becomes clogged with unprocessed hurts and fears. As we ignore our painful feelings or push them away, they impede our flowing aliveness and obscure the pure awareness that is our source. By not listening to our inner life, we cut ourselves off from reality. What remains is a diminished self, an unreal other.

 

However, when we confide in someone and they listen to us, really listen, the debris naturally begins to dissolve, and the fountain of aliveness is again free to flow. And, when we really listen to another, we help them come home to this same aliveness.

 

It’s important to remember that this process takes time. As we begin to listen, we often come face to face with the distasteful tangles—the jealousy or self-consciousness or anger that have been clogging the fountain. The conversation might seem superficial or dull, nervous or self-absorbed.

 

Yet, a dedicated listener hangs in there without getting lost in resisting or judging. This unconditional presence can be a healing balm that gradually helps the speaker’s tangled defenses relax so that his or her natural vitality and spirit can emerge. Perhaps you’ve noticed this when someone is really listening to you. You feel calmer, whole, “more like yourself”—more at home. Like an unclogged fountain, the deeper waters of humor, intelligence, creativity, and love begin to flow.

 

Kate left the workshop with the intention of experimenting, and when an opportunity to attend a professional training session near her mother’s home presented itself, she decided it was time to try deep listening with her. She made arrangements to stay for ten days, her longest visit with her mother since she’d left for college.

 

Now, Kate really listened during their time together. As we’d practiced, she listened inwardly to her own tension without judgment when she felt resistance, then reopened to whatever her mother was saying. In the same way, when she felt unimportant, impatient, bored, or judgmental, she brought mindfulness and kindness to her own experience. By doing so, she was able to bring that same open and clear space of presence to her mother.

 

Kate admitted that at first, it was hard. “I had a panicky sensation,” she told me. “It was like I would drown if I didn’t get away, if I didn’t find a way to have some of my own space. She takes up so much room!”

 

Yet, Kate found that if she kept a sense of humor about it, she could breathe, forgive her own reactions, and keep coming back. Then she would coach herself to deepen her presence: “Now … what is happening? My mother is talking, and I am quiet. There is endless time. I hear it, every word. And what is beyond the word? . . . I hear who she is.”

 

As Kate listened for what was behind her mother’s words, it got easier for her. She began to hear desperation, as if her mother was insisting over and over, “I’m here, I matter.” Taking in her mother’s pain, Kate felt her heart soften with care.

 

Through her own quiet, steady presence, Kate communicated, “You are here, you matter.” And her mother started to relax. Kate knew this, because there were longer pauses between the stories and commentary—her mother sat back more in her chair, looked out the window, slowed down, and seemed more reflective.

 

Several days before Kate was scheduled to leave, her mother began to tell her that she felt alone and unappreciated. Kate was able to respond with sincerity, gentleness, and honesty. “Mom,” she said, “it’s because you don’t listen to people.”

 

Her mother froze, but to Kate’s surprise, didn’t get defensive. Kate had been so truly present, and had offered such uncritical sympathy, that a trust had emerged—this was not an attack, but a caring reflection of truth.

 

Her mother wanted to know more: “Please tell me, I need to know.” And Kate told her. She explained how it had been for her sister, for their dad, and now, for her step-dad. “When you don’t listen, people feel like they don’t matter, that they’re not known. And it’s true—you can’t know them if you don’t listen. You can’t be close.”

 

Audrey looked at her daughter with a sorrow and understanding that pierced Kate’s heart. And in that moment, something changed. Maybe the pain of alienation had broken through her defenses, or maybe this was simply her time, but Audrey started to listen.

 

Others noticed, too. After her sister’s next visit with her mother, she told Kate, “For the first time in my life I felt like I was a real person to her … that I existed!” The change was most poignant with Kate’s stepfather, who began to enjoy the long dinners and evening walks that had been abandoned shortly after their marriage.

 

Audrey was no longer speaking to demand the world’s attention. She was speaking and listening in order to belong with other people, to share their lives. Because Kate had listened and let her heart be touched, her mother’s fountain had begun to unclog. Her life could once again flow from its source.

Adapted from  True Refuge (2013)

Enjoy this video on Finding True Refuge

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

photo by: aussiegall

Now hear this… are you tuning in or out?

When I was young, my daddy went to church exactly two times a year, once on Mother’s Day and once for the Nativity Service to see me dressed up as a manger animal. I would watch him sit down beside Mama on the church pew and nonchalantly reach up to turn off his hearing aid. He would sit through the rest of the service with a pleasant smile on his face, not hearing a god damn word the preacher said.

Sometimes, I wonder how many of us are doing the exact same thing – we listen to people speak, but don’t really hear what they say.  I hate to admit how often I catch myself just sitting there with a pleasant smile on my face, not hearing a god damn word. The other day, my kids were asking me 100 questions while I was making breakfast, packing lunches, and mentally preparing for the workshop I was about to lead on something ironic like Mindfulness.

“Mom, can you get strawberry jelly next time?”

“Mom, can I have a sleepover this weekend?’

“Mom, did you sign me up for dance?”

“Mom, did you know the dog just barfed?”

I nodded and gave them the cursory, “mmm-hmm.” Then my husband came down the stairs.

“Hon, can you get my shirts at the cleaners?”

“Are you sure they’ll be ready by 5 o’clock?”

“Is this recycling day or garbage day?”

“Did you notice the dog barf in living room?”

I was visualizing the sequence I had been working on the day before as I nodded again.

“Yep, got it. Have a great day. Love you.”
Nasty coffee mug

Later at the studio, a few students were lingering after class as I blew out candles, re-organized props, and contemplated whether the mat-cleaning spray would work on a dog barf stain. I heard snippets of their conversation and nodded my head every so often. Once they are gone, I found myself immersed in silence for the first time that day. I let myself settle into it as though it were a lazy boy recliner. I let my thoughts sink into the cushion of calm. I noticed how present I felt in that calm, quiet place. I reclined further and looked back over my day to realize that I had been absent for the majority of it. I had been physically there, but emotionally and mentally I had been deaf to all of it. I had turned off my hearing aid and put on a happy face. I hadn’t really heard a god damn word.

I didn’t hear my daughter’s doubt about asking her new friend over for a sleepover. She changed schools this year, and has been feeling lonely. I didn’t hear how nervous my husband was about his board meeting the next day, the one he needed the cleaned shirt for. I didn’t hear the need for connection beyond the mat that my students had. That realization made me feel like, well, dog barf.

I made a promise to myself to start living with my hearing aid turned on. It’s only been a few weeks, and it has already been a challenge. I frequently find myself answering an email while talking on the phone, listening to the news and my children at the same time, smiling, nodding. But like any challenge, I find the rewards worth the efforts. Yesterday, my teenage son wanted to talk to me about some of the kids in his class who are starting to get into trouble. He gave me a subtle cue to start the conversation. Had I missed it, I might have missed the opportunity to talk to him openly about the importance of staying true to your self when peer pressure kicks in.

Today, my daughter gave me some of the most important advice an 8-year old has probably ever shared with an adult. We were going to meet my web designer so I could sign off on a new project. Caroline wanted to walk to the meeting, but I was nervous that we were going to be late. Begrudgingly, I acquiesced. As we walked down the sidewalk hand in hand, I resisted the urge to check for a text from my web designer. I tried to be present as she talked to me about what color she wanted to paint her toenails. I did, however, gently remind her that we were in hurry.

“Mom, I know you do a lot of important, really awesome stuff, and I know my life is really easy cause I’m a kid and I don’t have to do that much. But sometimes, I wish you didn’t worry so much. I mean the world is not going to end if you’re a little late for a meeting.”

Had I been checking my text messages, I might have smiled and nodded, “mmm-hmm.” Thankfully, I had my hearing aid turned on and I heard her, I really heard her. I slowed my pace and asked her what color she thought I should paint my toenails.

“How about turquoise? That’d be so awesome. Not many moms can pull it off, but I think you can.”

I heard that.

Easter Toes--Daily Image 2011--April 24

How often do you go through your day smiling and nodding,  listening without really hearing? I’m here to tell you that you just might be missing something really awesome. As yogis, we are always talking about tuning in.

“Tune in to the breath.”

“Tune in to your body.”

“Tune in to your intuition.”

Sometimes, we get so tuned in to ourselves that we become tuned out to everyone else. Do you hear me?

Creative Commons License photo credit 1: faungg

Creative Commons License photo credit 2: Rochelle, just rochelle

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