This weekend I spent some off the mat time with my teacher, Ashaya Yoga founder, Todd Norian. Spending time outside of training or workshops with him is a real treat and doesn't happen often. He is extremely protective of his time and knows that he does his best work when he is rested. So he protects his introverted heart and his need for solitude and routine.... which doesn't leave much time for socializing. That I got to spend time at dinner with him and others felt like an honor.
We were all sitting around the table, conversing, as you do. And I noticed something about myself. A bad habit. Every time Todd would start talking, and especially when he started to get excited as he talked directly to me, I would INTERRUPT HIM. (cue record scratch) I want to cringe and not write it.
Here is someone that I value very much in my life. Someone I want to continue to get to know and to have know me. And how do I show him that I value what he has to say? I talk over him every time he opens his mouth. Gee Wiz girl. I'm pretty embarrassed.
The thing is, I know better!
I actually have the capacity to be a very good listener. It's something I've been doing well for most of my life (I think). In the past, I've not been particularly great at helping people out of the ditches they dig for themselves. But if you wanted someone to hear you while you are in your ditch, and to affirm that Yes you are there and Yes I see you in there and Yes you are still ok... then I was your girl. Luckily, now that I'm a coach I have ways to help you find your shovel and dig your way back out.
Listening is a simple yet profound way to show someone that you care about them. It tells the person they have value. It tells them that you see them and that their opinion matters equally as much as yours does in any situation. As a quiet person in this world I cannot tell you how important it is for me to feel those things.
Listening can be a deep act of Love for yourself and for the other person. Want someone to know that you care? LISTEN to them first. Want someone to feel your compassion? LISTEN with open ears. Want to convey your point of view without being cut off and shut down? LISTEN to their point of view first.
The minute you stop listening is the minute you put the brakes on connection. The minute you start hearing only your own thoughts, your response to the point they are making, how clever you are instead of the words and the ENERGY your friend is conveying you've missed the opportunity to move forward together. And you might have hurt the other person's feelings.
As Elizabeth Gilbert puts it in Eat, Pray, Love: "Here's a radical concept - maybe I can stop interrupting others when they are speaking. Because no matter how creatively I try to look at my habit of interrupting, I can't find another way to see it than this: "I believe that what I am saying is more important that what you are saying." And I can't find another way to see that than: "I believe I am more important than you." And that must end."
In this world full of ideas and noise, I often wonder if my ability to listen is of any value. I worry that I need to be OUT THERE more, rather than in here. But what I'm learning and trying to see is that my listening is so much needed.
When I listen well I eventually am able to remember that we are all human. We all have our struggles and ups and downs. But in the end we are equal. If I can do it well, without judgement I level the playing field.
May I listen until I reach that point.