Offered By Cole Mannella on Thursday, September 10, 2020
As monks and nuns or lay practitioners, we do sitting meditation each day. In sitting meditation, we close down the five senses. The eyes are closed and don’t take in or consume images. The ears don’t take in sounds, like news, music, or conversation. The nose doesn’t take in smells, like food or perfume. The mouth doesn’t take in food or engage in conversation. Our body is still, stable, and upright, and we don’t take in touch or have bodily contact with others.
Thus, we have only the mind to look at. Even with the mind, we quiet and calm it down by anchoring it to the awareness of the breath and of the body. When the mind is calm and still, it is able to look at itself.
In sitting meditation, we are actually making an appointment with ourselves. We learn to be our own soul mate, to be fully there and listen to ourself deeply. We are practicing the first mantra, “Darling, I am here for you,” which means I am here for myself. I am here for the inner child in me, whether that child is three, five, or eight years old, a teenager, or a young adult who has experienced traumas, sadness, and joy.
In meditation, we use loving speech with ourselves, “ Come back. Come back to the breath. Come back to the body. I am here for you, my love.”
We ask ourselves with all humility and curiosity, “Tell me of your pain. Tell me why am I feeling so confused when this incident happens, when this situation arises? Tell me why it hurts so much to be with that person? Why does it hurt so much to be away from her?” Our speech is full of humility and love, and it’s filled with a desire to understand ourselves.
Then, we listen.
Then, we gently ask another question for deeper understanding.
Then, we listen. We listen in order to make the connection with that child within. We listen in order to recognize that we are like this because our past experiences were like that. We are, because our inner child is. This is how we can learn to be our own soul mate. Deep listening and loving speech can be applied not only in sitting meditation but also in daily life.
We can also practice deep listening and loving speech while we’re walking quietly, being fully aware of our steps and our breath. When the mind is aware of the steps, the breath, and the body, it is quiet, attentive, and spacious. If a thought or a feeling arises, the mind is able to perceive it and hear it. That is deep listening. We hear what arises in the moment, and we are fully there for it in that moment. We hear what is said and also what is not said. There is no preconceived notion or judgement. That is compassionate listening.
There are times when we hear somebody telling us something again and again, a hundred times, but because we think we know this already, we’ve heard it already, we finish the sentence for the person, or we readily draw a conclusion and the brain immediately closes down and doesn’t process any more information, thus shutting out that person who is there with us. Our body is physically there, but our mind is already focused on another object, or it’s planning, or daydreaming.
The other person feels this and knows that they are speaking to a wall. Sometimes the person may ask, “Are you in there? Are you listening to me?” We reply, “Yeah yeah yeah, I hear you,” but we’ve already shut that person out.
In the spaciousness and quiet of our mind, we may belatedly truly hear a familiar sentence for the very first time. We finally understand the message and ask, “Is this what you mean?” After all this time, five years or twenty years, we suddenly understand what our parent or partner has been trying to tell us, and they may exclaim in exasperation, “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all this time!”
We suddenly see how this message is connected to everything else. We discover this aspect of the person for the first time, and this is a moment of deep communion in our relationship, with ourselves, and with each other.
We need to practice loving speech and deep listening with ourselves first of all. The inner child in us, the deepest part of us, has been trying to tell us for so many years certain things about ourselves, but we just don’t hear it. It’s like being in a crowded and noisy market. Neither can we hear a voice calling us nor can we hear the sound of a pin dropping.
But when the market closes down and the cacophony ceases, if there’s a child crying, we will hear it. In the same way, we need to cultivate this quietude in ourselves throughout the day, so that when the cries from deep down inside us rise up, we will hear them. We will recognize ourselves for the first time. We will understand why we are the way we are, why we behave certain ways. Only when we can do this for ourselves will we be able to do it for other people. Only then can we discover each other anew every day and in every moment.