I was browsing videos on YouTube and came across an old interview of the Buddhist monk, author – Thich Nhat Hann by Oprah. A couple of points hit home for me and I thought I should share with all of you. First one was “Deep compassionate listening”, we might have heard this question “Are you hearing or listening to someone?”, there is a lot of difference between these two actions. I was under the impression that I knew what listening meant, as I have been trying to practice conscious listening, but after watching this video, I realized that my understanding and practice was only on an intellectual level. So, what does deep compassionate listening really mean? I believe it means listening through all your senses, not just ingesting the words through the ears, but to feel the energy being portrayed, watch the body language, understand and look beyond the veil being held. Sometimes what people say and what they mean are total opposites. Most of them hide their true feelings and only show you the tip of an iceberg.
Now how to practice this? My interpretation is by being in the present totally, not in the past or in the future, not silently judging the words being heard, not conjuring up advice to share, just mindfully and sincerely be still and act as a vessel catching whatever is being shared. You do not have to advice the person right away, let the person feel comfortable, share whatever he/she wants to pour out, let them trust enough to start opening their heart. You will have plenty of chances to advice later.
A word of caution here, ensure you do not get so involved in the suffering being shared that you get depressed or drained of energy. This is the fine balance of being totally present but not involved. Being like a lotus flower, in the pond but the water droplets cannot stick to it. It sounds magical and almost mystical, impossible at times. This has really peeked my interest, how nice it would be to attain that stage, to be able to listen deeply but not get involved. Have you ever felt this or attained this state? Please share, I would love to hear your stories and experiences.
Thich Nhat Hhan further shares four mantras for personal relationships, which I found absolutely wonderful and simple to use. He calls them mantras but they are plain simple words that can be translated to any language.
- “Darling I am here for you” – The best thing you can gift your beloved is your presence. Your total presence, not being preoccupied with the past or future or your phone. Isn’t that simple and wonderful? To tell someone you are there for them. And this is not limited to husband-wife or romantic relations, this can mean parents, siblings, friends, kids and even pets.
- “Darling I know you are there, I am so happy that you are truly here and present”- what he mentions next is the crux of this “To be loved means to be recognized as existing”. Most of us take our loved ones for granted, after a while they are blurring backgrounds of our lives. Especially mothers & wives, who are constantly working for the house and we know they are important, we love them and respect them but hardly ever acknowledge their presence. Just saying I love you means nothing if actions don’t follow suit. Hug your loved one today and be present for them, see the magic unfold.
- When your beloved is suffering “Darling I know you are suffering and that is why I am there for you”- Acknowledging that he/she is suffering and that you are there will help relieve some of it already.
- The last one is difficult and challenging, when you have been hurt by that loved one, and you are upset and angry with them and want to punish them for hurting you, go back to them and say “ Darling I am suffering, I am hurt, please help me”. Having the honest conversation that he/she hurt you and involving them in finding a solution. It sounds wonderful but I am sure when anger and hurt are mixed and a splash of ego is added, this will seem impossible. How do we try this out? Maybe once we calm down, we set aside the ego and give this a try, if not for anything but testing this out.
When it comes to love, compassion, forgiveness etc. these words have been used way too many times and no one knows the day to day translation of these emotions and values. These four mantras seem simple and straight forward. Simplicity is the key to allow subtle changes to transform us, remember to say these out aloud, be sincere while saying them and follow through with action otherwise this amounts to nothing.
With the world currently in lockdown and the next few weeks and months forcing families to stay under one roof day in and day out, I hope this will help reduce the stress, defuse the tension, bring a smile, some laughter and better yet completely revitalize atmospheres within homes. Let us emerge as better human beings after this crisis tides over.
Photocredit- My best friend, Dr.Ramya Darshini, this was taken on my trip to NZ, literally traveled to the end of earth, paradise indeed :-).