Friday, October 6, 2017

Listen

I've been mindfully making an effort to live by my Guiding Star Touchstones this year.

A Touchstone is a message that connects you to your deepest wisdom. I use my Touchstones to remind me of what really matters and to guide me when I feel confused. Here's an exercise that will help you find your own personal Touchstones.

My Touchstones this year are:

Persisting Brings Joy (which I wrote about here)

Create to Feel Great

Listen

Today, I want to talk to you about Listen.

As I was crafting my Guiding Star plan back in January, I realized that I had developed an ugly habit - I wasn't truly listening to people. I would let them talk, but like so many of us, I would be formulating my response in my head as they were talking. Even worse, I would often feel my Inner Judge (she's a nasty son of a gun) mouthing off about how wrong said person was or how stupid said person was or if said person would only listen to ME.  But the worst realization of all?

I was using this habit on the people I loved the most.

I would do it to Beloved ALL THE TIME.

Starting January 8, I made a concerted effort (big words for I'm going to try very hard) to listen, to give all of my attention to the person in front of me. To just listen, not craft a perfect response, not tell a bigger, better story, not try to connect with them through a common thread (this habit, which I inherited from my father, is admirable, but taken too far, I find it actually makes me less connected).

Let me tell you - this Touchstone has transformed, yes, transformed my existence this year.  Don't forget, I'm out on the road in strange new lands with people who, six months ago, were strange new people to me. Reminding myself to listen to these strangers has created deep bonds with many of them. I honestly try to listen, to speak only when it is absolutely necessary, to give my colleagues the opportunity to complain or feel joyful or feel bad, to BE THEMSELVES. Many of them are no longer strangers to me.

Listening has given me great benefits as well. I am finding life to be easier when I listen. Situations that I would have previously gotten involved in are rolling off my back. I'm not reacting to every pebble that gets kicked up on the road of life. I'm not trying to solve everyone's problems for them.

Ironically, listening to others led to being listened to by others. It happened one night in Hangzhou, China, as I was enjoying a misty evening with 2 of my colleagues. The conversation started simply, with one colleague asking about my son. He asked and I talked, about my son, about how proud I am of him, about how I never expected to be a mother, about how I was frightened that I would be a bad mother, about how my son taught me how to be a good mother, about the blessing of having a good relationship with a strong independent child (that could read stubborn and mean, right?)  My colleagues did nothing but listen.

Two days later, I thanked one of those colleagues for letting me talk. I realized how much it meant to me when I started to choke up while thanking him. What a gift they had given me. A simple gift available to all of us.

Listen.