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Listen Till You No Longer Exist
How to honour the deepest aspects of self and others in our listening
Christine McDougall MCC
(MMC guest master coach and blogger)
“Forgetfulness of self is remembrance of God.” al-Bistami
Rare is our experience of being heard. Really deeply, wholly heard. Yet we remember those moments….when we were witnessed by another human, in our wholeness.
To listen to another is one of the highest gifts of respect we can ever bestow. Priceless in magnitude. Costing only our need to have an answer, or be right, or smart… or to be heard and understood ourselves. To listen to ourselves…the call of our soul…is the highest gift we can give ourselves.
Listening is a complex art form, requiring senses that transcend the humble ear. It requires daily practice, ever and always moving towards the next phase of mastery, never quite within our grasp.
In its most simple form, to listen utilises the sense of hearing.
Be still, hear the sounds around you in the exterior world. The bird call, the wind in the tree’s, the sound of the keyboard as I type, the very low electronic hum of the computer.
Going deeper, into our interior, we might be able to hear our breath, our heart beat, even our organs moving, our stomachs digesting, or our body signaling pain, stress, or discomfort. If we really listen to our physical body, we will hear that it needs food, water, clothing, comfort, attention-even right down to the type of food, the level of attention.
At this stage we have transcended sound and tapped into wisdom that comes from years of paying attention to the finest subtleties. Few of us have paid enough attention, given enough time, to the hearing of the needs of our physical, emotional and spiritual bodies. (See the article on physical intelligence)
We have lost, or indeed never found, the most precious connection we have – hearing the call of our souls. Hence we have lost connection to our very selves.
In the world of ~out there~ where our relationships are built, our work is done and our lives are lived, to work at improving listening skills is one of the most fundamental of all of the essential skills and critical to conscious communication.
And it is a skill, to be learned, honed, practiced, critiqued, developed.
To listen is the dual of speaking, and together they make the whole of conversation. One cannot exist without the other. And yet our world spends more time speaking. Do you also?
We are afraid of silence, of stillness.
‘Conversation’ comes from Latin, means the act of living with – “to turn about” with. Conversation requires at minimum two. Either the speaker and the person hearing as two entities, or the speaker and the listener within a single entity. If I am in conversation with myself, often times I am speaking to myself-endlessly, without pause. Yet few times do I actually hear the words. Few times am I still long enough to hear the endless and nauseatingly petty interior self chatter. My self talk lives so far below my conscious awareness, like the hum of the cars on a nearby freeway, or the sound of waves when living by the beach.
Self awareness includes the ability to hear with acuity to this ongoing hum of words and thought. To catch ourselves in the inner conversation, to eavesdrop on our deepest darkest secrets, and in so doing surface them into our awareness. This is the very act of becoming conscious. To listen to our inner self at the deepest level.
Conscious communication requires the deepest hearing without compromise.
Ask yourself when you last felt someone heard you at this level, transcending all of their petty self issues of criticism and judgment in their overall willingness simply to hear YOU?
Do you yearn for this level of conversation? Communion?
When did you last extend this courtesy of really hearing another? How often do you and your significant others listen to each other at this level?
How often do you listen to yourself with this level of attention? What would you hear if you did? Are you nervous about what you may hear? That your job leaves your soul cold, that your relationship needs intensive care, that your health is in dire straights? That you have lost connection with your spirit? That you are lost…and have no idea how to find you…
Our highest act of service in listening is to give up self. When we do this in our conversation with self, we give up what we want to hear, what we think we should hear, and all of our judgments about what is right, wrong, good and bad.
When I am eavesdropping on my soul, I need to get past my noisy, always chatting mind, passed the conditioned thoughts, passed my righteousness, and into the bedrock of truth. I need to access the part of me that is steady, all wise, all knowing, ever present. And yes, what I hear could be very scary. I might have spent my life going right, and I may need to go left.
The truth, no matter how frightening, will prevail in the end, and I can either heed it now, or suffer the days, months, or years of denial. As the poet David Whyte says so eloquently…”Bankruptcy may be something your soul has been secretly engineering your entire life.” In my ability to hear my truth, I will find my liberation, my ability to be aligned with how I live my life and all that I am.
When I am in a conversation with another, listening until I no longer exist means to transcend myself in the conversation. To NOT have the conversation be about ME. I need to be able to get passed all of my personal issues, my need to be right, liked, smart, good, nice. In order to do this my focus needs to be entirely on you, and my deepest intention and desire is to inhabit your world to the level of understanding and intimacy that will be felt profoundly by you.
You, the speaker, will know that you have been completely heard, completely understood, and in the process, given absolute grace as the speaker. I do not need to agree with you, however, you will know that I have heard you at the level of soul.
In my work with entrepreneurs and leaders, I create the field where I am privileged to be present to words and feelings that might have been surfaced for the very first time. I witness Truths, callings, yearnings, questions..the unspoken…The beauty of this…that when we speak the unspoken, when the unspoken is witnessed, everything shifts, and moves towards light. Listening to another, to the fullness of their humanity…this…this is to commune, to experience connection that transcends words.
Those who know this experience know its worth.
@Christine McDougall 2016 all rights reserved
About Christine McDougall MCC
I am a leader in co-creating profound personal and social behavioural change models that benefit the individual and the surrounding community.
“Christine’s ability to work with clients and navigate the darkest and most restrictive parts of themselves to create the clarity necessary for their personal success is second to none. With two decades of coaching and behavioural change management experience, Christine work has been entrusted by some of the world’s most intelligent entrepreneurs through to those in the grips of their deepest dark night as well as corporate organisations desiring transformational change."