Deep listening.

When was the last time you felt heard?

Listening, truly listening–without an agenda, without interrupting, without offering solutions or fixes, without criticism or judgment–is a rare thing. But it is vital to relationships. And it is a gift to be in a position to listen. Someone is trusting you with their story, their feelings, their hurts and hopes. That is precious. How can we best listen to each other?

In this thoughtful article, Martha Caldwell offers advise for listening compassionately in the classroom that really applies well to any situation. As a compassionate environment transforms a classroom, it too transforms any relationship. Consider her suggestions:

1. Be fully present. We bear witness to someone’s felt experience by giving them our complete and undivided attention. Paying full attention when someone is speaking creates safety and focus in the classroom. Compassionate listeners maintain complete silence and pay attention not only to words they hear, but also to facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice, noticing even the silences between words.

2. Know listening is enough. Listening with deep attention involves a calm, relaxed state of mind, free of the desire to “fix” someone or solve their problems for them. It does not involve giving advice or intervening in any way. If our minds are busy coming up with solutions for the speaker, we fail to truly listen.

3. Respond with acceptance. Deep listeners are motivated by the desire to understand how others feel and how their experiences have affected them. Their genuine interest and heartfelt concern make it safe for others to share their vulnerabilities because they sense that what they say will be received without judgement.

4. Understand conflict as part of real-life learning. A learning community in which people are encouraged to be honest and express how they feel involves a degree of risk. Conflict may arise. Sometimes this happens, and working through difficult feelings may take time. However, when we stay connected and stick with the process, conflict can be a catalyst for positive change. When conflict can be resolved, relationships often become stronger.

5. Ask authentic questions to learn more. By asking open-ended questions like “What was that like for you?,” “Can you tell me more about that?,” or “What were you experiencing?,” compassionate listeners guide speakers to share more deeply. These questions are motivated by the desire to honestly learn more (as opposed to reinforcing preconceived notions). If they think they may not have understood something, listeners can repeat back what they think they heard and ask for clarification. “Did I hear that right?”

6. Be gentle with yourself. Deep listening involves compassion for yourself as well as for others. Accept yourself and your internal feeling responses without judgement. Allow yourself time to process and learn.

7. Treat the candidness of others as a gift. Honor the trust others have placed in you and keep what you hear confidential.

Today, listen deeply and be grateful that someone is trusting you with their story.

Hold steady.

Our children are ours for such a short time really. Or maybe it just seems like they are ours because we love them so. Maybe they always belonged to the universe, to a future we will not see, to their own stories more than they ever belonged to us. But, for a while, we hold them, love them, teach them, comfort them, and give them all we have to give. And then we let them go.

Khalil Gibran puts it beautifully:

On Children
Khalil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

How important it is to be the “bow that is stable”. Our steadiness helps our children as living arrows find their arc, their trajectory, their brilliance. Our steady hands help our children take flight.

From Shari:

These are challenging times. It’s hard to imagine the impact our current crises will have on the way our children view the world and each other. What are some ways you’ve been able to hold the bow steady?

Hang in there, Mom.

Who is the teacher, and who is the student? We learn so much from our children–patience, humility, wonder, curiosity, and our capacity for love stretches beyond anything we could have ever imagined. But sometimes, when we have misbehaving children, we face criticism and shame instead of encouragement and support. And yet, as we rise to the challenge of parenting, we learn and grow as much or more than our kids. For those of you struggling, here is a beautiful poem of encouragement:

For My Daughter

When they laid you on my belly

and cut the cord

and wrapped you and gave you

to my arms, I looked into the face

I already loved. The cheekbones,

the nose, the deep place

the eyes opened to. I thought

then this is the one I must teach,

must shape and nurture.

I was sure I should. How was I

to know you would become

the one to show me

how kindness walks in the world?

Some days the daughter

is the mother,

is the hand that reaches

out over the pond, sprinkling

nourishment on the water.

Some days I am the lucky koi,

rising from below, opening

the circle of my mouth to take it in.

by Marjorie Saiser

An unfailing love.

 

home

How many kids these days are seen by their parents as just another way to show off? Look at my honor student, or my beauty, or my accomplished someone. It’s a way of vicarious puffing–if my kid is so smart, beautiful, wonderful, popular, surely the parent must be, too. But that’s not love; it’s pride. Love loves without having to be earned. It is steady and true. The parent who truly loves their child delights in their essence, in their idiosyncrasies, in all the ways they are their own person. That kind of love sustains a child and lets them lay down the shackles of constant performance anxiety and welcomes them home.

Consider Thomas Edison. We think of him as one of our most brilliant inventors, a shining star. Would it surprise you to know his teachers gave up on him and sent him home to be educated by his mother? She, needless to say, did not give up on him but helped him thrive. We all could use a love like that!

Hold steady.

livingarrows

Our children are ours for such a short time really. Or maybe it just seems like they are ours because we love them so. Maybe they always belonged to the universe, to a future we will not see, to their own stories more than they ever belonged to us. But, for a while, we hold them, love them, teach them, comfort them, and give them all we have to give. And then we let them go.

Khalil Gibran puts it beautifully:

On Children
Khalil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

How important it is to be the “bow that is stable”. Our steadiness helps our children as living arrows find their arc, their trajectory, their brilliance. Our steady hands help our children take flight.