Week One - - - Day Four
A whole new world
As I’ve mentioned, this book is a gift from gratitude to the many amazing teachings and learning I’ve fallen into, pursued and benefitted from in a moderately long life (so far 73 years, looking for another 50, if the human species lasts that long)/
Here’s something I love, that came into my life this way.
I’m living in Sonoma the town above San Francisco bay in my fifties. So this is the 1990’s.
My kids have grown up in Berkeley and I was just across the town line in Oakland most of the time, after nine years with their Mom. The kids, Brendan and Wenonah, are off to college and I can move to Sonoma and pursue the more rural and organic large garden life.
I help design and get going a five acre teaching and permaculture organic garden at the edge of town.
I love independent bookstores.
There is a great one in Sonoma, called Readers’ Books.
They have book readings, of which I attend a lot.
One night it’s a book, Be Heard Now.
It’s by a guy in Marin who invented a way to overcome stage fright by asking people to listen to him with full attention and only praise after.
He then invented something called Speaking Circles, where everyone around a circle of 5 - 12 people shares whatever is on their mind for three minutes.
No talking about anything anyone else said when it becomes your turn.
So my girlfriend and I, after attending the talk, attend one of his workshops. And then a couple more.
It’s pretty great.
Girlfriend and I try, as recommended this back and forth with each other in five minute turns.
This girlfriend, Celeste, a shy athletic garden loving yoga teacher, was the youngest in her family and had be pseudo-married (lived together 18 years, had two wonderful daughters together) to a semi-famous artist who pretty much sucked all the air out of a room with attention demands wherever he was.
To wit: Celeste wasn’t used to getting a word in edgewise, almost anywhere, including, unfortunately, mr smart guy, me.
And so: we try the 5 minute, 5 minute thing and on her second turn, realizing she could really truly have her say without interruption, she began to cry. In her whole life, she’d never really been listened to.
I’ve done this with my son, with friends, with strangers, at parties where people wanted to be real but didn’t know how (small groups huddled together on New Year’s Eve, say). Usually the results are fairly wonderful.
People want to be heard.
So, if you have a mate, give this a go.
If you have a friend and want to get closer, give this a go.
If you have a stranger at work, and you want to see what happens, give this a go.
If you have a relative you feel at loose ends with, give this a go.
if you have a relative you know you’d like to get more real with, give this a go.
Love and Communication Exercise/ Game #1
Sit across from each other.
Breathe deeply and comfortably.
Look each other in the eye.
Use a timer and talk for 4 minutes. Later you can make it five, seven, ten, even fifteen minutes.
Take a deep breath again and start the timer.
Be as present as you can.
Actually listen to your own words, don’t just say them.
Look the other person in the eye.
Sense your body in gravity.
Slow down and listen inside for what’s really important to say.
No comments on what they other person said in their turn.
To speak and to be present is an amazing experience.
Not being interrupted helps.
Knowing that what you say isn’t going to be commented on, is huge.
Even facial gestures.
Breathe deeply and sense yourself.
If you find yourself “thinking” of a response, let it go, knowing there is a rule to this game: when your turn comes, you can’t comment on what they said.
Really listening is far harder than we thinking.
And then, almost a miracle, it become extremely relaxing when we let go of have to formulate our response.
Why don’t we have to do that?
Because we keep our talking turn out of the other person’s business and also out of any response to what they said.
So, there two are constraints/ gifts to real communication…
No comments on the other person. Or one what they said in their turn.
None of the wonderful help/ advice/ wisdom you have about what they said
No hot button topics (if their family drives them crazy, don’t talk about that; if Trump is agonizing/ disturbing, don’t talk about that)
No talking about “the relationship.” There are ways to do that, but this isn’t it.
If you can’t think of anything to say:
Be silent (the other can’t help you out, or start early)
Talk present awareness ( I notice I’m breathing in. I notice the sun on the leaves outside the window. I notice I’m slightly slumped over. Try to avoid “pain and complain” remarks about the present. An overfortunate fallout from so little body awareness is that people can talk about their bodies only as a collection of pains.
And so this is “artificial.”
Most conversations are two people who have nothing to say, dying to interrupt each other to say that.
Huge amounts of most conversation are the not listening of preparing our own wonderful response instead of letting the other finish with real listening.
A huge amount of avoiding vulnerability is giving advice etc to another person, or various subtle one-up tidbits.
A huge amount of talking is not paying attention to the present or to the other person.
It’s a mess.
And, speaking is hard to be present.
Listening is an almost lost skill.
There’s a great usefulness to zero talking at meditation retreats.
This is zero talking while another person talks.
Even talking to yourself inside about the brilliant/ useful thing you have to say in response.
It’s a shift. A wonderful shift.
Take at least three turns talking and three listening.
See what happens.
Enjoy your day.