Deep Listening: I see you. You are important to me.

The danger of polarization is that we don’t listen. We shut the other side out, tolerance non-existent, and we become righteous. It matters not if it’s socio-political or with family.

I know that, for me, the combination of living in today’s socio-political climate, purposely surrounding myself with enough people that are not a part of my choir, and the speed at which my life is going places me in danger of losing my ability to listen deeply. In fact, I don’t listen the way I used to, and I want to get that back.

Deep listening requires suspending self-orientation and trusting that the other person(s) are speaking from an experience that is true for them. It doesn’t matter how poorly they articulate their position, they own their experiences. I do my best to speak from the truth of my experiences (I mean, that’s all we have, isn’t it?), and I know that I desire others to hear and see me. When the other is speaking, and I interrupt or start preparing what I will say when it’s my turn.. why… to stabilize and right myself, perhaps from the perceived threat of their words, I essentially show up self-oriented. This is different from being grounded in self. In self-orientation, I lack interest in honoring their life experience by failing to suspend my own orientation and simply hearing them. When we don’t get heard, we get stuck, and we dig our heels deeper in our position. We have no way of opening up to what is really being said: that this is my fear, this is my pain, will you – someone – hear me.

Deep listening allows us to open up real dialogue so that we can see and hear the other person.

This makes me think of the Zulu tribe whose greeting is Sawubona, which means I see you. You are important to me, and I value you.”

In order to listen deeply, we need to cultivate greater self awareness: our ability to see ourselves. How paradoxical is that? If we are unable to know or see who we are, that corresponding and desperate yearning and search for our own position and identity in the world often self-orients us, to everyone’s detriment, as we assert our orientation at others in our search for connection.

Meditation and mindful movement – creating the space and flow in our mind and body – allows for that deeper connection with ourselves. Practiced honestly (versus going through the motions to check off our to-do list and get on with our day) meditation and movement gives us opportunity to clean out the garbage, our mental chatter and the emotional commotion, and listen deeply to ourselves. We can begin to see and value ourselves and become self-fulfilled so that we don’t rely on others to fulfill us. We become much less threatened by differing opinions and by the unknown because we see and know who we are. We become the anchor and the healing channel.

I failed to see the “other side” as the expression of their own experience, and so I judged their opinions, and I began to half-listen. I refused to listen fully; perhaps it threatened my values, my sense of self, and I was afraid that I would get lost in them, or perhaps I was afraid that that would mean I was agreeing with them… I don’t know for sure. I didn’t understand that refusing to listen fully undermined what I value most, which is connection to others and to see God in all. I thought that I was protecting myself in some way. Instead, I started building a wall. It makes me wonder if this political insistence on building a wall to separate us from others is a macro cosmic expression of what is really going on in all of us. If we think that the wall proposal is ludicrous, perhaps it’s time to look inward to shift our projection into the energetic pool that is our socio-political system.

This failure to see undermined my own ability to deep listen to myself. It goes both ways. I practice deep listening to myself. But then I need to take that practice out into the world. And then back in. They cannot be compartmentalized.

Sawubona. Namaste. Sat Nam. I see myself. I see you.

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