Friday, May 29, 2015

Shut up and Listen

I once had this marvelous girlfriend. We met when I went to her yoga class. We bonded in a garden and in nature. We had a sweet connection. Our first night together was in a futon bed that was in a garden, under the stars. She was frisky. I was frisky.
Life was good.
Our talk was good, I thought, and yet: I was the oldest child, and we like to hear ourselves be the teacher. (Love to hear ourselves teach, actually. Alas.)  She was the youngest and had been married 18 years to a semi-famous artist who took up all the air in the room.
I didn’t know how much better things could get in talking until I tried this one night, this game that will be your first gift from the world of radical listening.

We used a timer.
She talked for five minutes. I didn’t interrupt. I was present as I listened. I followed my breathing. I didn’t say a peep. I looked at her and took her in.  If she didn’t know what to say instantly, I didn’t “help.” I waited. I listened.
I took a turn.
She took another turn, and in this turn began to cry.
No one had ever really listened to her for five minutes without completing her thought or interrupting her to tell her what she was “really” trying to say. Or the usual human thing: interrupting to say their ever so important thing.

Ever notice how your interruptions always have the assumption that what you have to say is MUCH more important than letting them finish?

Well, with Marlie, this had been endemic enough for her never to be heard.

So she cried.
This was profound for her.
And profound for me.

Let’s see how it will be for you.
Sit across from a friend, a business colleague, or your love partner. (With the love partner, this listening in the now can deeply improve the sex connection. Don’t believe me. Discover it for yourselves.)

You are going to take 3 minute turns talking and listening. Three turns makes it 18 minutes. You can do four minute turns (24 minutes). Or 5 minute turns (30 minutes).
And you might get hooked and want to keep going and going.
After Marlie and I got into it, we’d go for hours sometimes. It’s so nice to discover what you have to say when the pressure of interruption is off.

 In the beginning levels of this game, you don’t say anything about what the other person talked about.
This has two advantages: One, you don’t have to worry about what another person thinks about what you say when you talk, because they don’t get to say their ever so important opinion.
Two, as the listener, you aren’t going inside and rehearsing your response instead of listening, which is what we do most of the time. This helps create a condition of ONLY LISTENING.

Not interrupting. Even a squeak.
Not “thinking” of our response to what they are saying.
Not rehearsing over and over our response to what they are saying.
Not having any commentary in our head about what they are saying.
Not even “remembering” what they said awhile back.
One word at a time, one sentence at a time, one breath of this life, this now, this miracle of being alive and…

This creates a delicious savoring of our partner as they speak and we are ONLY LISTENING.  This creates a great ease and possibility for inner discovery in the one talking.
This is good.
This is very good.

Here’s the game

Set up two chairs facing each other and sit in them
Grant yourselves at least 20 minutes
Turn off cell phones, though let one be on airplane mode to be used for a timer
Set the timer for 3 minutes
Pick who starts first today. We’ll call this person, Partner A, or A.
Start the timer
Partner A talks, while being present
Partner B listens, in only listening
3 minutes
Partner A talks of anything except…
1. No talking about “the relationship”
2. No talking about the other person

It can be ramble.
It can be exploration.
It can be memory.
If “nothing comes,” these four always work:

The present
What you like/ love/ enjoy about life.
What is important to you in life
Saying nothing

It’s fine to say nothing.
You get attention, ONLY LISTENING, whether you have words or not..

The timer goes off.


Then switch to partner B talking for 3 minutes and partner A, ONLY LISTENING.

Partner B ( and partner A in all subsequent turns) has three restrictions now. One more.
1. No talking about the other person,
2. No talking about the relationship,
3. No talking about what the other person just said. No commentary, feedback, reactions, “improvements ” (aka “one upping”),  opinions.

As said before, this helps ONLY LISTENING immensely. Knowing that you won’t have a chance to yak about your important reaction to what you just heard helps calm down the mind for ONLY LISTENING.
Knowing that your partner won’t get to yak their important response gives an ease and a safety to the one speaking.

At the end of the three minutes, PAUSE again, and again take three deep and sweet breaths together.

Back to A. Who has the same three restrictions.

Do this at least 3 turns of talking  and ONLY LISTENING for each person.

You might want to take a quiet walk after, holding hands if you are a couple, simply being quiet and present to each other no matter what. And NOT talking, as you walk.

Enjoy deeply this gift of presence and ONLY LISTENING you have given yourself and your partner.

This is a delicious daily practice, a nourishment to your ability to listen and your need to/ wish to be heard.

Connection to another in the present. One of the best presents in the world.
yes yes

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