Listening with the Heart

Thich Nhat Hanh is talking on Super Soul Sunday about Deep Listening as a relief for suffering.

Such a beautiful concept.  It is the perfect cure for my normal “Quick to Fix” attitude.

The only time I ever practiced this…and it was purposeful and difficult…was with my mother in her last years.  Why haven’t I remembered how effective that was?

Mother had difficulty in letting go of the pain of her divorce from my father.  After 40+ years she still talked about it incessantly.  I was so tired of hearing it.  At the same time, she complained that no one listened to her.

No matter how many times I tried to relieve her suffering by offering every word of wisdom I could summon, she continued to talk.  I dreaded every visit with her and always left feeling disgruntled and irritated. Ultimately, I told her that I didn’t want to hear anymore.  I cut her off when she would begin.

Then came a time in my life (way too late) when I determined that I should be treating my mother in a way that I must treat a mother if I were to be the person I wanted to be.

On my next visit, I let her know that she could talk to me about anything and I wouldn’t object.  And (finally acknowledging futility) I determined that I would never offer her solutions or opinions.  I would simply listen.

It was excruciating.  It was boring.  At times it was depressing and overwhelming.

And over her last years our relationship changed.  I developed compassion for her.  She was light-hearted when we were together.  Although she admitted her incapacity to love deeply, she expressed her love for me and shared thoughts and memories about herself that I had never heard.

Thank you, Thich Nhat Hanh for reminding me of this profound way to manifest love.

The Student

This post was written for and originally posted on Vision and Verb on June 4, 2012

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Filed under Buddhism, Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves., Step 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs., Super Soul Sunday, The energy we put into the world comes back to us, Thich Nhat Hanh, You Become What You Believe

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