If you ever felt understood…
Have you ever talked to someone with whom you felt you were the only person in the world at that specific moment? A person who was truly interested in what you said. Who was sincerely engaged in every word coming out from your mouth?
How did you feel? Even no solution was proposed, you felt already much better? Your pains relieved? You saw yourself important, understood?
The power of deep listening
That’s all the power of “deep listening”: Healing and transforming. Both the practices of being heard and hearing deeply others can bring you more fulfillment, ease, and happiness. It also enables more success in relationships and communication with others, at home or at work.
“Deep listening is about healing and transforming whatever suffering is in our heart and store-consciousness” (Brian Kimmel, The Mindfulness Bell).
Experience “deep listening” in a retreat
I joined a retreat at Plum Village last year. We had a daily session namely “Dharma sharing”. In the session, everybody sat in a circle in silence. One wanting to share joined his or her palms together. The rest of the group did the same greeting. It was to acknowledge and promise to allow the person a space to be heard.
No one ever cross-talked or interrupted anyone speaking, however long the sharing could be. When the sharing was finished, the person speaking joined their palms to express their gratitude being deeply heard.
You might find the practice simple. But it is very powerful. When feel heard, one can express deeply from his or her heart. And relieved only by the fact of doing so.
Deep listening to ourselves: reduce stress and burnout
To practice deep listening, you can first start by listening deeply to yourself, before being able to listen to others. With meditation, yoga and other mindfulness practices, learn how to listen with compassion to your body, breath, feelings, and thoughts. When your body is tired, listen and give it a moment to relax. When you feel anxious, listen silently and acknowledge this feeling.
This deep listening helps you cultivate the attention to what your body and mind has to say. It allows conscious relaxation that allows you to stay open and present firstly to yourself. With this state of mind, it will be easier to listen to others.
Deep listening to others: healing and transformation
Don’t you find that sometimes, when listening to others, we have already some ideas behind our minds? We often attach our view or judgments to what is being said. We may not even hear the other person but our own thoughts. We think already about how to respond, justify ourselves, or to advise.
In fact, most of the time, when others share their difficulties and frustrations with us, they don’t need advice. They need indeed understanding.
To listen deeply, we must put ourselves out of the way. Can you try to give our full attention to the person who is speaking? Even if the person is silent, your attention may still remain with them.
“Do your best to practice compassionate listening. Do not listen for the sole purpose of judging, criticizing or analyzing. Listen to help the other person express himself, but also find some relief from his suffering” (Thich Nhat Hanh).
One thing to remember
But hang on, I want you to watch out to one thing before practicing deep listening. This practice does not mean taking on the sufferings of others. “One important aspect of deep listening is allowing what is said to come from emptiness and return to emptiness. We don’t want to be the bearer of another’s suffering” (Brian Kimmel, The Mindfulness Bell). This will allow others the confidence to trust us with their most sincere sharing without fear.
Start today deep listening and transform your world
In our daily life, rushing between work, and projects, most of us do not seem to have anymore this space for “listening”. Do you relate to this? Years can pass by. Sometimes you can surround yourselves by our loved ones. But with whom, all you have is some short exchanges lost in midst of radio, televisions and other noises and distractions.
If you ever experienced being deeply heard, you would understand how deep listening can bring relief and power to heal our relationships and communication. Start today the two kinds of deep listening: to yourself, and to others.
How about trying once today? Someone entrusts you with their worries or concern. Listen, not to reply or advice, but to solely listen, and to understand. You will see how it transform your world.