This summer I attended a mindfulness in education week long retreat. The first three days were silent. Yep, no talking, no writing, no reading, and no eye contact. Only listening, thank God delicious meals…and mindful meditation! My friends and family were taking bets that I could not and would not last… and they were right! It was painful!
For all you extroverts, you are thinking OMG NEVER! For all you introverts, you may be thinking how lovely this sounds! I learned I am 100% extroverted…and that creating some introvert intentions for myself is actually a great idea!
I have to say it was extremely difficult for me not just physically (to not impulsively share my thoughts with others ) but emotionally. I suddenly began to see how much I need to talk, to fill space, to solve aloud, and to connect verbally. I felt ravenous for verbal connection! I VERY SLOWLY learned (that week) how to find joy in silence…and also how resistant I was to the quiet world…. I learned many things spiritually and psychologically, but the simplest and best lesson I learned was the power of listening…
I finally realized what ‘silence is golden’ meant. It did not mean what I had always thought…that if I stopped talking everyone would be happy! Growing up with a very dominant father, I had been told countless times to just ‘stand there and look pretty’. Or to not argue or question anything that came from the patriarch in our family down. I think, for me, talking became my way of controlling my world…. Listening was the opposite of talking… I felt like listening was equivalent to being shut down…and silenced.
I was noticing….slowly realizing….that I had never really learned the power of listening nor learned HOW to listen.
Mindful Listening is —the act of being fully present in each moment with kindness and without judgment—is a wonderful skill to practice when you are in any situation that requires listening.
Mindfulness is about noticing the present moment. Being curious about what is happening internally with us and internally in others. About slowing down and observing our thoughts and our emotions…right now.
Mindful Listening is about listening with an open heart…listening with compassion. Listening with empathy.
We can practice mindful listening by noticing our tendency to want to judge or solve their problems. We do our best to simply listen …
without planning what we are going to say next
or getting lost in our thinking feelings and perceptions about what is being said.
We respond to what others share without giving advice or offering opinions. If someone shares something that inspires us, we may like to continue that topic, but we keep what we say grounded in our own experience, not in ideas or theories, and we don’t offer advice.
We have the power to make the speaker feel safe and seen. By smiling, nodding, or touch if it is a relationship where that is something we can do… We make eye contact. We are present.
We listen without interrupting.
We don’t speed up the speaker.
We listen to make the speaker feel our support.
We don’t listen to make a point.
We listen to help.
We don’t listen to push our agenda.
We need to constantly check in with ourselves when we listen. Reminding our self to notice what the speaker needs….and again and again checking in with out judgments.
Now remember mindfulness is a practice. Something we will NOT perfect in one day. It’s about setting intentions to listen and to communicate with love.
In preparing for this speech I see how not mindful I was notin a few different situations just this last week! I am checking in and noticing its time again, to re-set my intentions…and re-route back to what I need to practice…….
It is vital to notice our triggers, our judgments….to practice seeing others for what THEY need…even when we are feeling triggers…For me, that sassy tone out of my 9th grade daughters mouth…instantly throws me off my mindfulness game!
When we speak and listen to nurture, when we speak and listen compassionately, when we speak and listen to add growth we ourselves feel joy and not remorse ….
Again, IT’s hard when we are deeply triggered…that is when we really need to stop. Try it with me…
TAKE A BREATH (inhale through your nose 4-8)
Next time your daughter (or son or even husband) wants to vent. Practice this if you can. Take a breath… Pause…and set an intention to listen deeply.
Your goal is to allow your child to be heard.
To allow them to feel supported.
Get off your phone, stop the dishes….be present. Don’t feel that you have to FIX everything in that moment.
Notice your body language- crossed arms = closed off. Open arms are inviting. (Amy Cuddy has a great ted talk on this)
Notice Your eye contact
Notice your attentiveness.
Notice your child reaching out….
Even if they say things that ware wrong try to not interrupt them or offer information to help them change their perspective.
Even if they do say things wrong YOU DON’T INTERRUPT OR CORRECT OR YOUR TRANSFORM THE session into a debate, ruining your time together.
After a while, at least an hour…maybe even a day or two, you can offer them help to correct their perceptions, but not now.
Now is only for listening.
This will be very helpful and healing for your child.
Everyone want to be seen.
Everyone wants to be heard.
SO your homework…
Try this simple Mindful Listening Practice: Mindfulness—the act of being fully present in each moment with kindness and without judgment—is a wonderful skill to practice when you are in any situation that requires listening. In any conversation, you can use the person that’s speaking as your “object of mindfulness.” Pay full attention to what he or she is saying. When your mind wanders away from what is being said, immediately and without judgment bring yourself back to the words of the person speaking. Repeat those instructions as many times as necessary. The mind is like a muscle…the more your practice the more you strengthen those pathways of attentive listening… You will eventually strengthen your mental muscle to stay more focused and aware.