couples

Week 10/Deep Listening

The most loving and compassionate thing you can do for others is to listen with presence. 

Sounds easy, right?

Often the simple things are the most difficult and I am reminded daily of the inner wisdom, strength, and creativity that lives within each person as I sit with my psychotherapy clients and meditation students.  Listening creates a sense of safety and caring that can allow the inner wisdom to surface. Compassionate listening is extremely difficult because when another person is suffering there is a stirring of empathic resonance that draws up the urge to fix or alleviate the problem.

Many years ago, I was blessed to listen to Tara Brach in a NYC auditorium of 2000 people.  She shared the wisdom I needed at that time in my life of raising small children. I learned that the most important parenting skill (and relationship skill) needed was PRESENCE, a way of being completely with another person in the moment, without judgment and without fixing.  It involves taking in the experience of another to deeply understand and truly “SEE” them. This proves to be an ultimate challenge in balancing all the demands of daily life with small children, work, household responsibilities, personal issues, and other family commitments.

It is important that we do not take this practice to the extreme.  There isn’t the demand to listen with PRESENCE all the time, but rather sometimes…sometimes is good enough to have another person feel what they most need to feel. When I say feel, I really mean feel because it is not an intellectual thing where you can accurately regurgitate what the other person said to demonstrate you are listening.  It is a felt sense where the other person can see and sense that you are totally with them by your nonverbal body language. This is a skill we can continually work to develop and deepen, helping our relationships to blossom over time.

A few tips to cultivate the practice of presence:

Slow down.

Take a few deep breaths before you engage in conversation to interrupt your activity in the mind.

Assess the situation: Read body language to determine if there is urgency, and if so, direct all attention to the other person. If the need is not urgent or you are unable to give full attention, ask for time or explain that you want to give full attention but cannot right do so immediately. The key here is to honor your commitment to get back and listen, as this builds trust. This practice will also help foster a child’s ability to wait.

Use this practice during your daily routines.  Commit to turning off the electronics in the evening and be present with your loved one.

You can practice this with yourself, too…it is called Vipassana, or mindfulness meditation and as you cultivate inner listening, it will promote greater PRESENCE.

Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.

Week 6/Mindfulness of Deep Listening

Mindful Thought

Oneness is each of you moving in rhythm with one another; yet avoiding the propensity to overlap, block, or trip into each other. We look for the harmony of oneness to belt out of our relationships, wanting it to move us – like a duet in minor key.
 
Oneness, unity, connectedness, cohesion, negotiation, compromise, complementary, community. This “thing” connection is something to work at. You can’t google it. We create it only by digging into each other’s core. This magic takes root when we are curious. When we are quiet. When we are listening to each other.
 

Reflective Journaling

Describe effective and ineffective couples communication. Describe how you tend to communicate when under stress and how it serves (or does not serve) your relationship goals. 

Deep Listening Practice: Listen Lovingly 

This is a guided heart meditation that is great to practice with your partner or a friend. 1. Make a nice, soft space (on a solid surface) with two meditation cushions. Sit comfortably, facing each other. Your distance will be quite near, but without touching each other.

2. To begin to listen lovingly, start centering and settling in.  It is at this point that you may attend to your heart and breath. Your eyes may gaze softly at your partner or remain closed. You may find it helpful to focus on a phrase such as “I am breathing in, I am breathing out” while placing your hands on your heart center. Take as much time as you would like here with your partner.  

3. When ready, open your eyes and look lovingly at your partner. When the both of you have your eyes open, looking lovingly at your partner and ask, “Tell me something that you love?” The respondent will then ask the same question to their partner. An example would be:

Partner 1: Tell me something you love?

Partner 2: Our dog

Partner 2: Tell me something you love?

Partner 1: The beach at sunrise.

Partners will continue a rhythm of communication in this way. 

4. To complete this mediation, you may return attention to your breath and heart. I encourage you to discuss your felt experience with your partner and to share gratitude with your partner for sharing in this experience.

As Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us, “…in deep listening, we listen with the sole purpose of helping the other person feel heard and accepted.”  May you continue to open your hearts and listen deeply to those that you cherish.

Clara Bossie is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches In collaboration with Sacred Treehouse, Clara has developed a series of lectures, book studies and workshops designed to bring harmony to family life, including the popular True Love book study. When she is not busy creating, Clara also practices and teaches yoga.