A woman in a coffeeshop asked me the other day what I do.
What I didn’t reply, and I should have, is: I listen to people.
In the last day, I listened to three people tell their life stories, in part or in whole.
There are two things missing in this world, as far as I can see: love and listening. And both are equally important.
The relationship between the two is that, for me, listening is love in action.
We probably all agree that we want people to listen to us. But what we may not give our attention to is whether we listen to others.
Listening to others doesn’t mean cutting them off after two minutes and running away with their share. It doesn’t involve fixing, counselling, or advising them.
All of those come from the ego’s need to feel important. That’s probably the biggest obstacle to listening.
If we can put the ego aside, or tell it to go outside and play, then we have the space to receive into ourselves what other people are saying.
And we do that – we accept into ourselves what they’re saying. We let it in and try on their experience to see what it feels like.
And we mirror back to them how we feel, what we see, offering them a “second self,” a compassionate and bonding connection with another.
We give them a good listening and a thorough understanding. I’ve seen people respond at the end of it by being startled. They say they haven’t had the chance to say so much about themselves perhaps ever. It’s a liberating experience to see the whole of one’s life at one sitting. It makes things clear.
That’s what Kathleen and I did on the West Coast Express: we listened to people. That’s what I do in the meet-ups I attend now. That’s what I’ll be doing on the East Coast Express in the summer. There’ll never be enough listening in the world.
Yes, speaking is important. But speaking without being heard is close to futile.
Listening is what’s missing in the world and it’s born of love. Listening and love are as rare as water in the desert – and as necessary.