Well, on the surface, that is an easy question to answer. We all talk. And talk, and talk. Sometimes, we actually have conversations, and other times, whatever we say falls on deaf ears. On a deeper level, what results from being unheard or misunderstood are feelings of devaluation, our self-esteem and confidence fall, we lose trust, and while we're licking our wounds, we are also then guilty of not listening.
A good conversation with listening is priceless. Heard, you feel valued, empowered, confident, and able to see new possibilities and potential. How far does the imagination have to stretch to envision a life where you listen and are listened to?
Listening is a skill. It is something that can be learned. And, as you go around listening to others, they start listening back. It spreads! You'll also find you do a good bit of the "do" list and not so much of the "don't" list already. A little bit of focus and monitoring and listening will become natural.
Blocks to Listening (Don't)
First is a list of 12 blocks to listening. Try to honestly think about these to see which ones you've used before. They are pretty natural to fall into, and just a little awareness goes a long way in keeping them in check. (I've done a bit of mind reading and placating myself.)
Comparing - While the person is speaking, you're trying to figure out which of you is better, has more or does less in any way imaginable.
Mind Reading - Assuming you already know what the person is going to say while ignoring him/her and without bothering to ask questions to confirm your belief.
Rehearsing - No way to hear when you are practicing your next lines in your head.
Filtering - The only thing you're going to hear is what you want to hear, nothing else.
Judging - You've already determined that the person speaking has no value for you, so you don't bother to pay attention to what he/she says.
Dreaming - Something half heard sends you off into your own little world to think about a similar aspect in your own life.
Identifying - As someone shares an experience, you relate it back to your own life.
Advising - Before someone can explain, you are offering advice. You completely miss the point, the feelings and the scope, and leave the person feeling misunderstood.
Sparring - You listen, but only for something to disagree with, argue over or debate.
Being Right - You will rationalize, make excuses, shout or accuse the speaker of anything you can think of just to avoid being wrong.
Derailing - Bored or uncomfortable about what is said, you change the subject.
Placating - No matter what is said, you agree. You listen just enough to catch the places where you can agree.
Effective Listening (Do)
Now, here is a short list of tips to effective or empathic listening. You probably already do a lot of these, especially when the person and the conversation are particularly interesting to you. See if you can 'catch' yourself using any of these. Then, see if you can use them at will.
Acknowledge the speaker by being attentive, genuinely interested, alert and positive. Be in the moment and focused.
Show you are listening with "uh-huh", nod your head, lean forward in a relaxed way, make frequent eye contact, and invite more to explore with open-ended questions.
Be a sounding board and a mirror by restating what is said in your own words. Let the speaker dominate the conversation.
Reflect back what you understand and how you think the speaker feels. Listen for the person's positive intention or "hope" to respond to and support.
Later, I found the turkey wishbone in what was left. Tim grabbed onto one arm of the small bone, I hung onto the other. We both closed our eyes to make our wishes, and Tim pulled. He pulled hard. We both looked at the pieces left in our hands, and both were of equal length! The top had broken off both halves and went flying (I found the tip today, which reminded me to write about it) somewhere. Both of us, eyes wide, looked at each other and said, "Uh oh!"
I wonder what it means? Do you know?
We do not teach;
We share the knowledge.
These are the words that shaped my teaching style as an instructor, and I even called the site I made for my students "Share the Knowledge". In that context, I felt the name was appropriate and that what was there was accepted as knowledge.
But, for this blog, it just felt too ...stodgy... if that's the right word. What is knowledge for me may not be for you, and it sure got to feeling like a slammed door more than anything else. That slammed door kept you and I farther apart than I wanted. Besides, it was downright conceited!
As obvious as it was to me that the old name had to go, it took quite a bit of mulling to come up with a name that truly captured the who-what-where-when-how of writing for a presumably public audience. I figure that if you are witness to my life lessons, then they are real, which is why I created this blog. What I learn is then written in stone, so to speak, and openly worn on my shirt sleeve. That will keep me honest! Oh, I came up with some doozies for names: GistJoist, SpringStream, KindSense and Odd Street, to list just a few. These weird (brain farts) names are cool in their own way, but just not quite the "it" I was looking for.
This morning, before taking more than a few sips out of my first cup of coffee of the day, it hit me. Bumpy Path! Oh yes, this is it. This is the one. What a relief! It sure does seem to fit a lot better. What I hope is that you can read this blog and maybe save yourself from going over some of the same bumps that I did. Nothing more, nothing less.
What's in a name? All of it. Out with the old, in with the new...
What do you think?
I remember reading that somewhere and thinking that it couldn't be possible since a second is such a very small chunk of time. There's no doubt that my initial reaction missed the point entirely. Perhaps this is an abstract, not a logical concept; and one of the reasons it is so difficult to grasp is that we are so programmed to be linear thinkers. Perhaps we no longer perceive the power of thought because we are unable to grasp the moments we are not thinking. It's like appreciating the good times because you've experienced the not so good times. But, it's another piece of the puzzle of balance and it's important to grasp the concept of "in the moment".
You will find a mountain of information about "in the moment". Being in the moment, living in the moment, lost in the moment… Google the term "in the moment" and you will get more hits than you'd ever be able to sift through in a lifetime, from Oprah and Dr. Phil to meditation and Zen. You'll find "in the moment" in relaxation techniques, counseling skills, becoming peaceful, becoming centered and empathically listening, to name just a few.
In this moment, in this instant, your past is behind you and set in stone. In front of you is your future, filled with possibilities and potential, and very much unknown. You could spend this moment wishing you could take back hurtful words, undo what can't be undone, take advantage of a missed opportunity, actually say something to your high school crush, etc. You could spend this moment worrying about what will happen or won't happen, bills to be paid, things to be done, places to go, people to see, etc.
Or, you could grasp the moment and experience the here and now. Instead of looking back on a faint memory of what you missed, you can stop bemoaning the past and worrying about the future. You can experience and live the beauty, the awareness, the peace, the goodness, and the wonder of nature. You find that you are content, energized and excited. You experience joy. Oh yes, it's risky. You have to let go and reach out and explore.
The good news is that you've probably already experienced living in the moment! Have you ever been driving down the road and suddenly snapped to and realized you had no idea how you got there? In that moment you snapped to awareness, startled into the moment, you had no choice but to look around and be right where you were to figure out just where, exactly, that was. It's like being yanked out of your life and set back in it again and it takes everything you've got to get your bearings.
There are other ways that you can hook onto this thing of living in the moment. Once you identify the moments, it becomes easier and easier to enjoy more and more. Here's a few that grab me every time:
Watch a child at play. Totally in the moment, the child will go down and climb up the slide over and over until something else catches the attention, and then it's the swing or the monkey bars or the sand box. This continues until Mother Nature calls with hunger or thirst pains. The child is just as happy to be in the moment with you or other children of any age too.
Watch animals. Though the animal knows when it's time to eat and where the food dish is, and has a pretty good idea that you'll be leaving based on what shoes you have on, the rest of the time, its doing exactly what nature intended: being in the moment. A cat will stalk a bird with great patience until the bird flies away or something else catches its eye. A dog will plop down and go into an immediate deep sleep then jump to full awareness if he hears a car door slam. A horse will fall asleep standing up with both eyes open and both ears going like radar, and deeply sigh with contentment as he is being brushed.
Listen to music. I mean really good music. The kind of music that you crank up way loud and gives you no choice but to sing and dance along. This kind of music gives you the feeling that it will never end, you hope it never ends, and when it does end, it leaves you peaceful and full.
Get outside. Enjoy nature. All of it. Watch a sunrise and a sunset. Go out in the middle of the night and look up at the stars. Sit in the grass and feel the sun, the breeze, smell the scents on the air, feel the blades of grass. Watch the grass grow.
Be creative. Lose yourself doing. Work in your garden, do a watercolor painting, build a birdhouse or a house, rearrange your living room, wash and wax the car… Just do.
Ah, now this is living!
(The other day, at the same time that the sun was setting behind me, in front of me was this incredible moonrise. Once I pried my chin off my chest, I snapped this photo with my cell phone. Surprisingly, it caught the colors true. It was one of those moments for me.)
How many times have you heard that one? Actually, the question should be, "how many times have you spilled milk?" Perhaps you felt a twinge of guilt and glanced sheepishly around to see if anyone saw. It may have taken a bit to go from feeling to thinking to grab a paper towel or two to wipe up the spill.
Let me paint a picture here so that we can eavesdrop on "self talk" to trace that process a little more.
Imagine a woman who just spent hours doing what women do to get ready for a fancy, important party, and she looks good. She decides that, since she has a few minutes to spare, she can quickly whip up a special frosting for the cake she baked to bring instead of using the stuff in a can. She starts rummaging through her cupboards and soon discovers that there is no can of frosting, but all the dry ingredients for her special frosting is there. All that's needed is a half cup of milk. She opens the refrigerator door and sees that there is less than a half inch of milk left in the plastic gallon milk jug, just enough. She grabs it, flings around in haste, the milk jug snags the closing refrigerator door and falls to the floor. The top pops off, the jug bounces up in a somersault, and what's left of the milk goes everywhere, including on shoes, dress, hair....
Oh no oh no oh NO! She is frozen in place, eyes wide in disbelief and one hand over her mouth. The seconds tick, tick and then yes, a tear wells up.
Shit! This is not happening! She draws in a deep breath, her eyes narrow and her hands are clenched fists against her thighs. She stomps a foot once, then again and again.
My cake! My dress, my shoes, my hair! The foot that was stomping now serves a good kick to the offending refrigerator door. The pain is immediate, and this time, what's in her mind is said out loud:
"Dammit!" She hops on one foot over to a kitchen chair to melt into it, elbos on knees, head in hands.
Thirty minutes later, ten fashionably late minutes past on time, we see our girl arrive at the party looking good (though slightly limping) and toting a fully frosted cake.
Feeling to thinking. How did she do it?
(The judge ruled, among other things, that the group brainwashes members.) Says Sweden, "For the first time we had a judge, and not just rumors, stating that the group was dangerous." (Since 1995, the Church of Scientology has not enjoyed the legal protections accorded to religions in Germany, after a judge ruled that it was not a religion but a group "masquerading as a religion in order to make a profit.")
Perhaps I should look into filing suit against the Church of Scientology after all.
It seems I spend a ridiculous amount of time playing Bejeweled. If there's a trick to that game, I'll be danged if I can find it. I don't even know if it's possible to win the game. And, it's also pretty mindless. While playing it, my mind just flows. Sometimes these flows are productive and creative. Sometimes they are just flights of fancy. Sometimes I can catch the productive, creative flow before I start playing that game, do some research and solidify my idea. Sometimes, the research itself sets off a flight of fancy.
The latter is a good description of my flight today. I had a good thought ruminating that I wanted to develop; something light and positive. So, I fired up Wikipedia and typed in the term I use to describe the concept, and came up blank. I tried one of the related, suggested terms, and stumbled onto an entry I was interested in that was also a source of a quote I knew of and hoped to find in the entry so I could document it. No, it wasn't a quote related to the idea I set out to research today. But, in this entry, there are references to a few things in Tibetan Buddhism and the Ancient Wisdom, so I followed those links to those entries.
Long story short, what I landed on in the end was a very long entry on L. Ron Hubbard. It is bizarre to find a link from Buddhism to Hubbard, who claimed to be the current incarnation of the Maitreya! I read through the Wikipedia entry and found no reference to that claim, a relief. Interest didn't wane though: My father was in the process of reading his book, "Dianetics", when he suddenly died of atherosclerosis, something that if diagnosed a by-pass would have cured. Reading through the entry was no less fantastic than reading that Mr. Hubbard thought he looked like the Maitreya so therefore must be his incarnation. (Do you see a resemblance?) I came away thinking that the man must've never slept in order to fail so miserably at so many things while succeeding at just as many others. It appears that his self-help theory of purging painful memories that he called "Dianetics" was lucrative enough for him to invest more time and energy than was his usual, so he built a business around it. It failed eventually as well, and he lost the copyright on the term "Dianetics" when his corporation declared bankruptcy. He then came up with Scientology because he felt the fastest way to become really rich was to invent a religion! His "Dianetics" book is now referred to as "Book One", and putting a volcano on the cover was his idea that the imagery would induce purchase in an inevitable, irresistible way, bringing more people and their money into his Church of Scientology. To me and my racing mind, this stuff is so "out there" that I began to think that if my father was buying into his theory, then he might have believed in the theory's claim that purging memories led to physical healing and didn't go to the doctor when he was feeling poorly.
"Whoa," I yelled to myself. My father wasn't gullible, only read half the book, nor would it be possible to prove even if he did delay seeking medical attention. "Hmm," I thought, "what an interesting way to meet Tom Cruise" if I went ahead and sued Scientology for my father's untimely death. What a hoot! I once went to a Star Trek convention and met the actor that played Chekhov in the original series. Even with my whopping 5'3 stature, I looked down to meet his eyes. For the life of me, I find it difficult to relate shortness with stardom. What if ol' Tom is that short too?
So then I think to myself, "If you can't say something good, then don't say anything at all." Oops. OK, then, "If you can't find something good to say, maybe there's something good to say about some part of it." I've got it! Here it is: I'll never know if Tom Cruise is short or not! Whew, I feel better now.
Now, back to my game...
(My father died November 11, 1989. I love him and miss him - still. He'd get a chuckle out of reading this.)
When I want something to read purely for enjoyment, I will most likely choose a Stephen King book. I own them all, and have read most of them several times, and there are a few I'll read about once a year. I enjoy the way he brings his characters to life by giving you what the character is thinking. In a way, you could say you know a Stephen King imaginary character better than you know any real person because you are witness to their thought processes. The plots stretch the mettle of the characters, and their thinking. Most of the time, I am disappointed by movies of Stephen King novels since the visual lends itself far more to the story than characterizations. But, I was not disappointed by The Mist. Not at all.
There are several premises in this movie that go along with what I've been talking about here. In one chunk of entertainment, you are given quite a bit to evaluate of yourself - without the crisis to test just how well you really know yourself.
Fear of the unknown. This is within us all to one degree or another, and not unusual by any means. But, what if what is unknown is within yourself as much as it is in the mist?
Paranoia. This tends to crop up more in those who focus all their energies on their idealized self rather than their real self. Their self-demands are often unrealistic and unattainable, and the thoughts behind them go something like, "I should be the most intelligent", "I should succeed" and "I should be even better because of the color of my skin." Anything, no matter how innocent or minor, can register as a threat, insult or degradation to that person.
Out of touch with reality vs broken reality. Any person involved in a combat situation, a natural disaster, or the victim of a rape or mugging will know this struggle first hand. How you stack up to yourself here goes hand in hand with....
Sheep or shepherd. Fear is a powerful thing. It can keep you alive. But, you are lost if you let fear rule. It eliminates reason, and lays you open to become the sheep of a charismatic maniac or, if you're lucky, you are led to safety by a true leader. This also goes hand in hand with...
Religion vs faith. Those charismatic maniacs are fundamentalist zealots with an idealized self more incredible, more fantastic, more unrealistic than any of Stephen King's "monsters".
Rock and a hard space. I talked about this in my Balance post. There are various levels of these kinds of decisions throughout the movie, and if you put yourself in the characters' shoes, would you choose the same way?
There is more, much more, in Stephen King's The Mist. This is a good place to start. Once you see the movie, come back here and share your thoughts.
Yesterday, while sitting at a stoplight, I glance over to my right. There is a doctor's office there with a parking lot in front. I see a man and woman with a small, blond haired little girl walking between them. Suddenly, the woman lunges at the little girl and grabs her hand. The man grabs the other hand, lifts the girl off her feet, and using a motion like sending a bowling ball down a lane, swats the little girl's butt. The girl's body arches, her feet land back on the ground, and both the woman and man let go of her hands to continue walking toward their car. I am in the middle lane, blocked in with cars all around me.
This little drama played out in less than three seconds, yet my mind was furiously attempting to assess the situation and plan a course of action. As a parent, I know the incredible feeling of panic as my little child threatens to dart off into the middle of a busy parking lot. That did not happen with this little girl who obediently walked between the woman and man in an empty parking lot. I saw no infraction of any sort, but still tried to find a reason to warrant such a swat. Maybe the little girl was a terror in the doctor's office. Considering the girl was not in school, she was probably 4 or 5 years old and I find it questionable that delayed punishment would be effective. Consider also that a swat delivered so spontaneously may just well be the preferred method of discipline, which I find questionable as well.
So far, I see the girl getting a swat, become frustrated that my path to the girl is blocked, and I look for intent and a possible pattern. Looking hard at the man and woman again, the woman is getting into the driver's seat of the car, and the man is putting the little girl in the back seat. The girl had not changed her demeanor. She walked between the two as though the swat was just a hitch in her stride. She raised her arms up to be picked up and put in the car with no hesitation. There was no sign that she was upset or crying. Though far from happy about it, I concluded that the girl was OK and in no immediate danger. The light turns green and I drive off stewing in thoughts of yanking that woman's hand and giving that man a good swat on the butt. I repeated again, 'the girl is safe' and with a heavy sigh, went on to think about something else as I continued down the road.
There is nothing that sets me off more than abuse of a child or animal. The fury and anger are incredible. And, once I start to feel that heat, I kick into what I call my "mode". My mind goes blank and focused to a pinpoint, scanning and assessing like an ultra-fast computer. Some sort of switch is flipped on. This switch is immediate in a crisis situation, an ability I came to consciously realize I had while doing preventive casework. My emotions are there, but my thinking is in control. I am able to act on what I'm feeling instead of reacting.
The honesty comes to play when thinking has evaluated the situation logically, which soothes the emotions. It reveals the reality over and above the discomfort of the emotions. It takes the energy away from the idealized shoulds and coulds and subjectivity. The honesty prevents taking the easy way out by escaping or ignoring or indignant self-righteousness. This same honesty is not only a fundamental key to effective assessment of crises, but of self evaluation as well.
Find your switch and pick up those reins. Your driver's seat is waiting.
(Photo courtesy of the Princess's Carriage.)
Sometimes the questions give yes or no as choices, or sometimes there are multiple choices, but none of the options given are palatable. What I would do in a situation like that is get out of the raft and into the water myself. I can hang onto the side of it without pulling it under. But, that is never an option, nor is it ever an option to let someone else in that raft be faced with the tough decisions!
I'm not quite sure exactly what these types of questions tell about a person. The instinct and will to survive is a strong one, along with a multitude of other facets of a personality that can come out. Perhaps that is something each person has to decide for themselves. It's not an easy task. If I choose to live, then I am a selfish S.O.B. If I choose to get out of the raft myself, then I'm suicidal. Maybe I'm pregnant, or slated to testify against a big, bad criminal. Or maybe I want fame and martyrdom, even if I'm not able to enjoy it posthumously. Now that I think about it, I haven't gotten in a boat since faced with this damnable question!
Honesty may be a little easier to think about now. If you drop a glass on the floor, do you say, "Wow, that thing just jumped right out of my hand!", or do you say, "I am clumsy and dropped the glass. Where's the broom?" Your assignment, Jim, should you choose to accept it, is to evaluate yourself for yourself...
It is not possible to be honest with others until you are honest with yourself. I know, I know; that's what your mother always said.
I've thrown it out there that today's life is pushing us further and further away from our natural tendency to be a social animal. Social constructs have chiseled away social aspects. Would it be safe to say that the ways of passing along morals, values, faith, beliefs have also been eroded?
The Old Wives Tales and other such folksy sayings (and fables and myths and even nursery rhymes) are nonsensical and illogical if you do not think critically. In order to think about them, not only do you have to imagine and project the possible outcomes, you have to separate your thinking from your feeling.
And, that is the balance. That is the power. That is direction. Think consciously.
And, just who were these Old Wives anyway? You mean to tell me that what happens when you get married is you become old right away? That made some sense; it certainly explained my crabby mother, and come to think of it, she didn't look much different than the Wicked Old Witch from the West, who must also be an Old Wife. OK, so my mother was a Wicked Old Witch Wife, and I promptly ran behind the dining room door and hid when I heard her coming.
And then I kept hearing, "oh, that's just an Old Wives tale" along with those cute sayings like, "be careful what you wish for or you just might get it." Well, isn't that the point of wishing for something? Oh, I wished hard that my mother would never discover my hiding place behind that dining room door, especially when she had a comb in her hand or when my baby brother was crying. For some reason, when he cried, I got spanked.
"Don't get mad, get even" popped into my head when I started to mull over ways to help someone who is fearful of having an issue with anger. What? Advise someone to take revenge and make sure it's good? Where is the Old Wife that came up with that one?
It's not too difficult to see that, even though I've been adult about four times longer than I was a concrete thinking little child, those young years still have an impact! Just in case you have a bit of this trap in you, I'm not married, so I'm not an Old Wife, and you can believe me when I advise you to be very careful of the things you say to your young child! Stuff like this can make a person absolutely certain to be stuck between a rock and a hard place...
Reading some of Zen Habits made me realize the difficulty I was having with this blog. I love to opine 'til the cows come home, but what good is it without purpose? I stopped trying to save the world a long time ago. It was not something little ol' me could actually do. Not all at once, at least. So, I Pay it Forward. That is the purpose of this blog: To share my views and opinions as a way of offering a different way of perceiving and understanding. Like Leo, I also have to say that I am not the most qualified. I'm just willing to share.
Leo mentioned something about the general aversion to organized religion, that he feels the church, any church, is a social gathering place that gives people the opportunity to be kind. As the opposite, he points out that we are all anonymous to each other as we all have to drive our car to get anywhere. Yes, we are more and more isolated every day, not only from each other, but from ourselves.
And yes, I am one of those with an aversion to organized religion, and my 'why' is probably pretty close to everyone's 'why' with the same aversion. Perhaps the balance has been tipped toward a complete destruction of the institution of organized religion. But, faith, beliefs, spirituality, ethics, morals, and values are being destroyed along with the institution of organized religion! Historically, is there anything to look back on to give us an idea what happens when so many no longer have religion? I can remember nothing like a time when people no longer searched for meaning, for purpose, for something more than the way life appeared to be. Add to this hollow existence the destruction of the social gathering place and yet another rung of Maslow's Hierarchy of Need is taken out of the natural, necessary quest for growth, individuation and actualization.
The concept of Zen, the emphasis on the "direct individual experience of one's own true nature", just may be the way to put the human back into humanity. What has been lost can be found and strengthened by meditating on 'true nature', and how that is spiritual, ethical, and moral. Define your own religion. In all of the earth's religions, there is a common truth:
From good comes good; from evil comes evil.