To listen is possibly the most beautiful gift we can offer anyone. In a way it is to tell that person: “You are important to me, you are interesting, I am glad you are here. I am here for you; I am touched by who you are and what you are saying.”
To listen is to start by keeping quiet. Have you noticed how many pseudo exchanges are filled with expressions like “Oh yes, same with me” or “I was in the same situation.” This becomes the opportunity to talk about self, take over the discussion and make it one’s own.
To listen means to begin by stopping our little inner movie, or monologue and to allow the other to reach us and perhaps transform us. It is allowing another into our intimacy, setting aside our thoughts, our feelings, as if he would enter our house, settle himself down for a moment into an armchair and claim our attention for himself alone.
To listen is to accept. It is dropping what we are doing to give one’s time to another. Deep listening is like going for a walk with a friend. One adapts to his walking speed, staying close but giving him space, being led by him, stopping when he does and then starting again with him, being there for him. This is called walking together.
To listen is not to seek to give answers to one who is looking for himself, who reflects or sounds off in front of us. Above all the need is for him to hear and recognize himself and find himself in the labyrinth of his thoughts. It is to refuse to think for another, give advice or even to want to understand. It is simply to hear.
To listen is to welcome the other, to acknowledge him as he defines himself without telling him who he should be. Of course, there are different levels of listening. Active listening allows the one who speaks to hear what he is saying. Passive listening, rarer and therefore more desirable, is unconditional and allows emptying the excess of bitterness and regrets. Participatory listening amplifies what the other says while remaining open and positive towards all ideas, topics, experiences, solutions with no interpretation, judgement, allowing the other the time and space to find his way.
To listen is not to wish someone were like this or that, it is learning to place one’s self silently in this light gap between what is said and what is heard.
Giving our attention to one suffering is not offering a solution to or an explanation for his pain, it is to allow him to verbalize it and to find his way to free himself or to bear it.
To learn to listen in this freedom of being is the most useful exercise we can do to get rid of our miseries and recover what is universal in our uniqueness.
To listen is to give the other what was perhaps never given to us: attention, a benevolent presence. It is by learning to listen to others that we will be able to listen to ourselves in our bodies, in our feelings. It is the way to learn to listen to the Earth and to Life, it is to become a poet of humanitude who feels the heart and sees the soul of things.
“To him who knows how to listen is given to no longer live on the surface: he communes with the inner vibration of the all living being.”