January 30 Listening to our Elders

Camille facilitates:

In practicing mindfulness, one of the most helpful practices for me is deep listening - to myself and to others without judgement and with understanding. But one of the most helpful practices can also be one of the most difficult.


This week I would like to share how this can be particularly challenging for me with our elderly.  I often wonder whether I am deeply listening with understanding and compassion to a parent or older friend.  Or do I think if they disagree with me - it's only because they are old and aren't as knowledgeable about what is happening today.  Aren't I just judging them and not really valuing them for their contributions?  


In "The Art of Communicating" by Thich Nhat Hanh, he reminds us of the importance of communication and that we all want to be heard and understood.  He says:


"We communicate to be understood and to understand others.  If we're talking and no one is listening we're not communicating effectively.  There are two keys to effective and true communication.  The first is deep listening.  The second is loving speech.  Deep listening and loving speech are the best instruments I know for establishing and restoring communication with others and relieving suffering.


We all want to be understood.  When we interact with another person, particularly if we haven't practiced mindfulness of our own suffering and listened well to our own selves, we're anxious for others to understand us right away.  We want to begin by expressing ourselves.  But talking first like that doesn't usually work.  Deep listening needs to come first.  Practicing mindfulness of suffering - recognizing and embracing the suffering in oneself and in the other person - will give rise to the understanding necessary for good communication.


When we listen to someone with the intention of helping that person suffer less, this is deep listening.  When we listen with compassion, we don't get caught in judgment.  A judgment may form but we don't hold on to it.  Deep listening has the power to help us create a moment of joy, a moment of happiness, and to help us handle a painful emotion."


I look forward to sharing your ideas on being with elderly parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors (or even being the elder in your community) and being with them more compassionately.  See you Monday.