March 9, 2016

The Greatest Gift We Can Offer Our Fellow Humans.

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Often we don’t even realize we are having the best feeling in the world when it is happening.

This is how simple happiness can be.

We can be all caught up in the moment, just sharing our thoughts and feelings with another person, and then suddenly we realize we are being listened to compassionately.

For me there is such a simple joy in talking with another person who just listens. A kind of freedom in being able to express myself and to be heard without judgement or criticism.

Often this can be a  vulnerable experience when we find ourselves sharing the truth of what we are thinking and how we are feeling. However, when we know we have been heard, it can feel like a large weight has been lifted from our soul, like we have  a renewed strength to continue on this mysterious journey that is human life.

Being deeply listened to is a great feeling.

Being deeply listened to can be a transformative experience when we have shared something dark, and the person listening doesn’t respondwith fear or accusation, but instead responds with openness and kindness.

When I was at my Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction training, we were paired up to do an activity where we were asked to strike a pose to show how we felt when we were heard or listened to.

Instead of striking a pose, my response was to break into tears and run out of the room.

I curled up in a fetal position in the hall of the hotel where the course was taking place and sobbed.

I really didn’t feel like I knew what it was like to be truly heard, and this realization hurt badly.

This cracking open and crying was the start of a healing process where being heard has now become I regular part of my life.

However, recently, I have again found myself  in a situation where I don’t feel heard, and I have felt myself curling up into my own arms, which feels like a numb state, where I am less aware of myself and my surroundings.

Not being heard can make us feel small, like we aren’t important and don’t belong.

Luckily, there are many kind people in the world who are great at listening.

I happen to know many.

After days of feeling like I had to hide my true self, I met up with some old friends who I’ve known forever. They know how to listen to me and respond appropriately. They make me feel validated by their ability to make sense of what I am saying to them, and share pertinent information they have acquired on their own journeys that feeds my soul.

I left their company feeling lighter and more buoyant, ready to unfold and continue on again.

A quality conversation with kind people who know how to listen can really uplift us when things feel dark.

I remember a few years ago walking along a canyon trail with a friend when she decided to share with me some hard feelings about her relationship with her father. I  just listened as we stomped through the brown leaves on the cool autumn day. I eventually responded that her feelings about her father sounded like her truth.

The next day she e-mailed me with big thanks. She stated it was so freeing to share something she felt ashamed of and receive no judgement but just kind listening. She felt part of her heal her pain around her issue with her father purely through being heard compassionately.

How powerful kind listening can be!

This is such a good news story for all of us.

It doesn’t cost money to listen kindly, it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort.

It is the exact opposite.

Compassionate listening requires slowing down our pace. It requires not being so quick to respond and not having to know all the answers, or even any answers. It is as simple as saying, “I hear you” or “That sounds hard” or like I did with my friend say “That sounds like your truth.”

Compassionate listening means putting aside our own opinions and judgements and not engaging with comparison thoughts. Instead compassionate listening asks of us to touch in with the uniqueness of the other person’s journey by offering some kindness, which often just looks like our own relaxed presence.

In a world caught up in right and wrong and good and bad, this choice to listen with compassion and honor the power of each person’s individual journey is one of the greatest ways we can lessen suffering and improve support through the complex human journey that we call life.

I hope we all find the time to both listen and be listened to.




Author: Ruth Lera 

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Anna Vander Stel at Unsplash

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