Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Listening as an Act of Love

One of the greatest gifts we can give one another is listening.  I always knew listening was important.  I just didn’t realize how sacred.

I best back up a bit.  I am not a novice in the art of listening.  For thirty years my bread and butter in the workplace came from my ability to listen, synthesize, and help focus my clients’ conversations so they were able to strategically move from the world of divergence and reflection to concrete strategies and actions.
As a consultant specializing in workplace conversations where collaboration was desirable and results were required, the expectations were clear.  Either I learned how to tune in to my clients and really listen, or I was out of a job.

But the kind of listening I am talking about now is far different, for there are no personal expectations or financial compensations as a result of the effort.  Instead, imagine holding something very precious in cupped hands and humbly offering it to another. 

A simple yet extraordinary gift that says, “In this space, I am yours, and I vow  that I will do every thing in my power to make sure your voice is heard.”  That’s what I mean by listening as an act of love.                                                         

Genuine listening such as this takes courage.  You have to let go of your world of ego needs, feelings of inadequacy, and control and enter into a space that the other person owns entirely.  This isn’t about you and your knowledge or experiences, it’s about them.  You are in a state of being and allowing, not in offering problem solving directives, unless you are specifically asked to do so.
It is often a place of silence.  And that silence can sometimes be uncomfortable for the listener, especially when there are no answers to be had; where no “fixing” is possible, or perhaps even wanted.

Some of my greatest listening lessons came to me when two of my friends and four animals passed away in less than a year.  For some reason, I was given the privilege to support them as they prepared to transition to the Other Side.
I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you that there were moments when I didn’t know if I had the courage, strength, or even time (which I am ashamed to admit) to accompany my friends on their journeys.  

I soon discovered that a precarious balancing act was set in motion. To remain in this loving and intimate listening space I had to keep my heart open. But an open heart to love is also an open heart to suffering and sorrow. “Too much, too much,” I would plead to God, as I was bombarded by thoughts of losing these special beings in my life.

Yet in this very state of surrender, when I felt I had nothing left to give, was when I discovered I had everything I needed. 

The voice within said, “Be at peace.  We’ve got you covered.” And a mantle of grace descended upon me.

As I reflect on these listening experiences, I am filled with gratitude.  How could something so difficult, gritty, and draining be so exquisitely beautiful and fulfilling at the same time?  I have no answers, other than it seems to be a part of the human experience.  As my deceased friend Mary Ann would always say, “It is what it is.”

I now understand that listening as an act of love is a choice.  And we don’t have to wait until people or animals are ready to pass over, before offering this special gift we are all so capable of giving.
We can do for each other what those on the Other Side cannot.  A steady gaze, a loving touch, an open heart, and a readiness to listen can do absolute wonders.  Who in your life has taught you about listening?  What have you learned?  How can you take that knowledge to support others and truly give the gift of listening as an act of love?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Inner Connections

Want to know how to connect to that inner, pure, Divine part of yourself?   Easy. . . Start with what you know—all of the spaces and places where you can go that make you feel really good, where your mind is free and your heart is open.

                        Free Mind + Open Heart = Inner Connections

Teddy and Me at the Park
For me it’s a no brainer.  If I am on my horse Teddy, listening to my favorite music, or walking my dogs on a beautiful day I get similar results.  Free mind means the mind is not only allowed, but encouraged to shake loose from its day to day workload.  

Open heart means you love where you are at that point in time, you experience a sense of peace, and it’s practically impossible to feel any harsh emotions. 

Working together, the free mind and open heart literally creates a “safe haven” for that innate and Divinely intelligent part of ourselves to come forward.  In this state, nothing is forced; rather, the information is revealed.  Insights bubble up to the surface of our consciousness and present themselves for us to observe, review, or discard.  In time, the experience feels as normal as breathing. We're not even consciously aware we are doing it.  
It’s sort of funny when you think about it.  I mean, you may never have considered listening to the music of Bob Seger as a spiritual exercise to access one’s inner self.  But if it gets you to a place where you are free of everyday worries and your heart is open to positive feelings—well, that would seem like a great starting place to access the Real Me.

As I’ve mentioned before, because most of us humans don’t live in an isolated cave in the midst of silence, we have to learn how to access that inner voice in the midst of everyday life with what I often refer to as the “barking dogs”.
It seems the more we consciously seek out that inner part of ourselves, the more we are able to block out the barking dogs and the more accessible the Real Me becomes.  But that takes desire, skills, concentration, and practice.
If you want to be a race car driver able to mentally, emotionally, and physically withstand the rigors of the sport, it’s best to learn the ropes before hitting the Indianapolis 500.  No different in our daily lives as we experience the race track of life. We want to sharpen our ability to look and listen within on a regular basis so that when the really tough times hit, we’ll be ready and able to call upon our inner resources to guide and support us.

As I have tried to practice what I preach, at times I find the responsible part of me gets all huffy when I hear that inner voice calling me to come visit.  I resist, saying I have better things to do.  You know, all that important stuff like going to work, paying bills, cleaning the house, or doing the laundry.
My Divine self shakes her head in wonder. “What could me more important than coming to visit me?  If you don’t have much time, how about at least a phone call that says you know I exist and that you value what I have to offer?”

I’ve finally figured out that if I don’t have the time to go for a walk or ride my horse to experience that free mind and open heart that gives me access to my inner self, I can at least do the “text message” version as an act of remembrance.
Over the years I’ve gotten pretty creative—like every time I fill the dog bowl with water at the sink, I gaze outside at a favorite tree and make an inner connection.  Or in the midst of a meeting filled with tension and anger, I take a few breaths and imagine myself in the middle of the eye of a storm, perfectly still and at peace.

I can’t help but think that Spirit calls on us to keep it simple. (I swear simplicity is a Divine trademark!)   As always, I invite you to think about what works for you as you progress on your own listening journey.  Tap into what you already know, expand your possibilities for those inner connections, including the text messaging options, and see how it makes a difference in your life.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Everyday Me Meets Real Me

In my recent My Listening Project blogs and YouTube vlogs I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about being your own best listener—being able to readily access that inner, Divine part of yourself to guide and support you on your life journey.

It sounds so simple, really.  What could be hard about looking within and using our uniquely, innate intelligence to support choices that impact us on a daily basis?  Choices that influence if we feel our lives are filled with meaning and purpose versus feeling disconnected from ourselves and others.

Consider this line of logic to see how much you could agree with the following statements:


Life is challenging;

I need all the help I can get while here on earth;

There is a Higher Power (God, Divine, Spirit, Christ, Allah, Universal Force) who is running the show and is very much a part of who I am.

It would be a good thing if I were able to tap into that inner, spiritual, pure side of myself to receive guidance, rather than strictly relying on others or on my everyday human self (filled with ego needs, insecurities, fear, anger, pain, loss, etc.) to assume control for making my daily decisions on how I live my life.

If you’re relatively comfortable with the previous statements, then you might want to check in with yourself—to get a picture of the “as is” state of how you conduct yourself on a day to day basis versus who you really are.
You can begin by drawing two stick figures on a page, one labeled the Everyday Me, the other labeled the Real Me.  Under the Everyday Me list the qualities and behaviors you exhibit on a daily basis—the good, the bad and the ugly.  

Do so as if you were observing another person moving through their day, without judgement.  Perhaps you witness that along with the “good”, you are frequently   tempermental, judgemental, harsh, or frazzled. Get it all down—this isn’t meant to be a shaming exercise.

Under the stick figure labeled the Real Me, try to put yourself in a quiet place and sincerely ask what are the qualities that define this part of you—the truly special, pure Divine qualities that are wired into the very essence of your being.  Please know that if words like ugly, shame, stupid, stubborn, or cruel come to mind you haven’t hit the real treasure yet; keep digging because so far all you’ve hit is human garbage.

This exercise requires time and practice.  It’s like being with a group of friends, family, or co-workers who don’t really listen to a thing you have to say—in fact could care less.  Even though you know you are brilliant, you train yourself not to have an opinion, what’s the point if your voice goes unheard.

So when someone eventually does ask you a question, you’re sort of stunned and speechless because it was so unexpected.  Before you speak, you want to make sure the person is serious—that they really do recognize, value, an honor your wisdom.

Posing a question to one’s inner self can be sort of like that.  If you haven’t had much experience, it may take a while before anything comes through.  Allowing rather than forcing is critical.  What comes to you comes.  

And keep in mind, these are the really special, unique qualities.  Depending on your life experiences, you may have to reach back to the earliest part of childhood to remember.

Once you are able to identify at least a couple qualities of the Real Me (the more desire and patience you have in listening, the more likely the list will grow), step back and compare your lists and take a look at what you see, asking yourself:

As of this point in time, how big is the gap between the qualities of the Everyday Me and the Real Me? How well am I able to access that inner part of myself? 

If you’re like me, a lot of times the response is, “I’ve got some work to do.” But I give myself credit.  “I’ve come a long way, baby.”
There was a time in my younger adult life when I distinctly remember standing in my parents’ driveway talking with my Dad.  I had made a personal life choice and my Dad was cautioning me about the consequences of that decision.  Not in a moralistic way (he was too smart for that) but rather in a straight forward, factual way.  He simply stated without emotion that, “Chris, you just aren’t wired that way.”

The gist of his message was that if I went forward with this choice, I was going to have to deal with feeling the discrepancy of behaving in ways that went against the essence of who I was as a person—that Divine Real Me.

The man spoke the truth!  No way, no how was my life choice the right one.  But I was too angry and frightened to see differently.  My protective ego had established the course and I was on my way.

I eventually came around to viewing things from my father’s perspective, not because of fearing my Dad’s loss of love, but because I wasn’t comfortable with my choice.  I just didn’t feel right.
In those days, I wasn’t thinking about accessing my Divine self to live an authentic life where inner and outer was in sync.  But the experience had such a jarring effect on my sense of being that I vowed then and there to never get so out of alignment that I lost track of The Real Me.

What a valuable lesson!  I’ve kept my vow and the good news is that over the years I’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting to know the Real Me.  This is the part of myself that has a direct line to my Divine source where the well never runs dry.  I can’t begin to tell you how good that feels.

I still make mistakes, lots of them—that’s part of the human experience.  But because I’m willing and able to maintain a loving and ongoing relationship with Spirit, I catch those errors in judgement sooner.  I am far less likely at this point in my life to not only lose sight of, but ignore and negate this Divine part of myself.
But I frequently need a “tune up” and that tune up means posing questions to that inner part of myself followed by a healthy dialogue.  The more I engage, the more the sharing flows.  Hard to believe that a conversation with oneself can be such a game changer in life.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Your Own Best Listener

What would it be like to be your own best listener?  Not as in, “I face the world alone and it’s you and me against everyone else,” but rather, “I face the world as a spiritual being able to tap into my own Divine self to obtain wisdom and guidance to support me in everyday life—not just for my benefit, but for the good of all."                                        

I believe that being able to be your own best listener—to access that part of ourselves   that is connected to the sacred—is the most intimate relationship a person can have. Intimate implies “being close to—really close.”  In its purest form intimacy with someone also implies a strong sense of trust, safety, and love within the relationship—  two joined together as one.
This isn’t just pie in the sky stuff.  Being your own best listener can be a game changer—the difference between living a life of fear, regret, and others’ expectations versus living authentically with confidence, meaning, and purpose. 

I’ll lay odds that most of you know what I’m talking about.  At one time or another, you’re likely to have made decisions where you “listened to your gut” in spite of others’ opinions and made the right choice.  There were other times when you were fearful, angry, centered in your own ego, or you did what someone else thought was best for you—be it in your career, relationship, or job choice.  At times such as this, all you can do is look back in wonder and say, “What was I thinking?”

Let’s take those memories and go back to the original question—what would it be like to be our own best listener?  What would it be like if we could readily access and trust that spiritual, Divine part of ourselves to speak and listen to our own inner truth?

To help you answer that question, here’s something you might want to try:

Think of a time when you were successful in reaching that inner part of yourself at a choice point in life, when you did make a decision (in spite of having no guarantees as to the outcome) based on that inner guidance.  Even years later, you still believe it was the right choice. 

How did receiving that information and guidance feel?  How and when did that sense of knowing come to you?  What was it about that experience that would make you want to take that inner decision making route again?   

Now take the information you gleaned from that positive experience and use it to think about what it would be like to be your own best listener at this point in time.  How would that feel to be in an intimate relationship with oneself?  How might that be of benefit to you and to others? 

Envision—Imagine—Think Best Case Scenario.  This just isn’t any old relationship, this is a relationship with your highest self, as in Divine Self, that you have the potential to access at any time.  What do you want out of this relationship?  Go for broke.

You can pose this question to yourself before bedtime, in the morning while brushing your teeth, or sitting in rush hour traffic—it really doesn’t matter as long as you consciously and sincerely pose the question to yourself.  Doing so frees the subconscious mind to do its thing and also gives the Divine permission to move full speed ahead.
Start writing down the words or phrases that come to you—without judgement.  Keep posing the question and allow the answers to be revealed to you.  There’s no rush.  As in any evolving relationship, particularly one in which intimacy is desirable, you want to take your time to make sure this relationship is worthy, that it will only enhance rather than negate the essence of who you really are.

Having an intimate relationship with the deepest part of our sacred selves is a choice.  You’ve got to want it—Big Time. Like all such relationships, there are moments of great joy as well as periods of extreme vulnerability.  And although that vulnerability part sometimes scares the heck out of me, it seems that there’s no way around it.  One begets the other. 

But I have learned to move beyond the fear and remember that my version of God is all about love.  I know that now.  In the end, the listening journey—being one’s own best listener—is all about love.  But my words and truth mean little in this case and your experience and knowing mean everything. 

Thomas Edison once said, “If we did all the things we were capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” 

If we are at a point where we recognize the importance of this intimate relationship within oneself, and in fact long to get to know this inner part of ourselves in ways we have yet to imagine, we’ve taken an important first step.  The only thing I might offer is—get ready to be astounded.