Deep Listening - Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise by Thich Nhat Hanh

Offered By Cole Mannella on October 15, 2020

When we speak, of course we are only saying what we think is correct; but sometimes, because of the way we say it, the listener can’t take it in, so our words don’t have the desired effect of bringing more clarity and understanding to the situation. We need to ask ourselves, “Am I speaking just to speak, or am I speaking because I think these words can help someone heal?” When our words are spoken with compassion, based on love and on our awareness of our interconnectedness, then our speech may be called right speech.

When we give an immediate reply to someone, usually we are just reeling off our knowledge or reacting out of emotion. When we hear the other person’s question or comment, we don’t take the time to listen deeply and look deeply into what has been shared; we just volley back a quick rejoinder. That’s not helpful.

The next time someone asks you a question, don’t answer right away. Receive the question or sharing and let it penetrate you, so that the speaker feels that they have really been listened to. All of us can benefit from training ourselves in this skill; we must practice in order to do it well. First and foremost, if we haven’t listened deeply to ourselves, we can’t listen deeply to others.

We need to cultivate a spiritual dimension of our life if we want to be light, free, and truly at ease. We need to practice in order to restore this kind of spaciousness. Only when we have been able to open space within ourselves, can we really help others. If I am out for a walk or on a public bus—anywhere, really—it is very easy to notice if someone has a feeling of spaciousness. Perhaps you’ve met people like this—you don’t even know them well, but you feel comfortable with them because they are easy and relaxed. They are not already full of their own agenda.

If you open the space within yourself, you will find that people, even someone who perhaps has been avoiding you, will want to come and be near you. You don’t have to do anything, or try to teach them anything, or even say anything. If you are practicing on your own, creating space and quiet within you, others will be drawn to your spaciousness. People around will feel comfortable just being around you because of the quality of your presence.

This is the virtue of nonaction. We stop our thinking, bring our mind back to our body, and become truly present. Nonaction is very important. It is not the same thing as passivity or inertia; it’s a dynamic and creative state of openness. We just need to sit there, very awake, very light; and when others come sit with us, they feel at ease right away. Even though we haven’t “done” anything to help, the other person receives a lot from us.

Having the space to listen with compassion is essential to being a true friend, a true colleague, a true parent, a true partner. If we want to help others, we need to have peace inside. This peace we can create with each step, each breath, and then we can help; otherwise, we are just wasting others’ time. What all of us need first is ease, lightness, and peace in our own body and spirit. Only then can we truly listen to others.

This takes some practice. Take time each day to be with your breath and your steps, to bring your mind back to your body—to remember that you have a body! Take some time each day to listen with compassion to your inner child, to listen to the things inside that are clamoring to be heard. Then you will know how to listen to others.

Understanding Makes Compassion Possible - Be Free Where You Are by Thich Nhat Hanh

Also offered by Cole on 10/15/20

I would describe my practice as the practice of cultivating compassion. But I know that compassion is not possible without understanding. Understanding is the substance out of which we fabricate compassion. What kind of understanding am I talking about? It is the understanding that the other person suffers, too. When we suffer, we tend to believe that we are the victims of other people, that we are the only ones who truly suffer. That is not true - the other person also suffers. They have their own difficulties, fears, and worries, too. If we could only see the pain within them, we would begin to understand them. Once understanding is present, compassion becomes possible.

Do we have enough time to look into the condition of the other person? If we look, we can see that there is a lot of suffering within them. Maybe they do not know how to handle their suffering. Maybe they allow their suffering to grow because they do not know how to handle it, and this makes them and other people around them suffer. So with this kind of awareness or mindfulness, you begin to understand, and understanding will give rise to your compassion. With compassion in you, you will suffer much less, and you will be motivated by a desire to do something -- or not to do something -- so that the other person suffers less. Your way of looking or smiling at them may help them to suffer less and give them faith in compassion.

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