Monday, May 23, 2011

Listening and the Power of Silence

Much silence makes a powerful noise.
                                                African proverb

Apparently one of the things I picked up along the way is that when someone describes a problem or situation to me, I’m supposed to fix it. I slowly realized that, not only am I not capable of fixing or figuring out other peoples’ problems, but other people don’t usually want me to fix them! Another old habit of listening and responding is, as I’m hearing the other person’s story, I’m also thinking of an experience that either matches or tops what I’m ‘hearing’. In some situations, this can be a fun exchange, but sometimes it’s not what’s needed.

So, what to do??

Listen. Make listening an active verb. Listen with your whole body. What I have found is that, when I listen with my heart, what I hear is beyond words. And when I’m able to stay in my heart, my response, if needed, goes to the essence of the situation.

When one of my daughters was in her second week of first grade, one of her classmate’s mother died. Among the parents who knew about the situation, there was so much sadness and a nervousness with respect to the uncertainty of sharing this difficult situation with our six year olds. On the first day of school, the teacher had given the class a year-long assignment of keeping a daily journal, and on Mondays some of the kids would share what they had written. The teacher told me about the Monday after Megan’s mother’s death. Megan volunteered to read from her journal and, with some hesitation and fear, the teacher called on Megan who read “My mother died a few days ago. I went to her funeral . . . “ and went on to describe her 6 year old experience of her mother’s death. After Megan stopped reading, the class sat in complete silence for some time, then broke out in applause.

What struck me about this story was the power of slence and the ineffectiveness of words in some situations. Perhaps more noteworthy is the fact that a group of six year olds knew instinctively how to handle the situation. Sometimes it feels like we don’t need to learn more, we just need to un-learn some of the things we’ve been taught.

I heard real listening described once as an act of pure love. Being fully heard is a heart-felt experience. So simple. So powerful.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Synchronicity - Living in the Flow

 Flow is the natural, effortless unfolding of our life in a way that moves us toward wholeness and harmony.
                        From The Power of Flow, by Charlene Belitz and Meg Lundstrum

Looking back over my life, there were expanses of time where things felt easy and effortless; there were other stretches of time where it felt that there were roadblocks at every turn. Just life? I used to think so. But having become aware of synchronicity, I’ve changed my mind.

Carl Jung described synchronicity as “the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer.” This is a difficult concept for a society raised on “Just the facts.” We were taught to rely on logic, intellect and events that can be seen and explained. Our entire educational system and thought patterns have been, for centuries, based on empirical information.

But in recent years, science and physics have proven that the belief of the person performing the experiment affects the outcome. That results can be affected by the intention and expectation of the experimenter.

I remember reading The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield many years ago. It was the first time I heard suggested that ‘there are no coincidences’ and, through the story, I felt encouraged to play with that idea. To me, this meant noticing patterns and details, events that would have gone unnoticed previously.

For example, I remember driving down I-95 to a meeting that I was very anxious about. I was spinning the anticipated details around in my head, quickly raising my level of stress. I noticed a car that had been next to me for some time and when I looked over, the driver gave me the sweetest smile, then pulled ahead. I felt that I had been visited by an angel, and I stopped the anxiety producing thinking.

Sound wacky? Maybe. But it works for me.

Most synchronistic events in our lives either go unnoticed or are explained as simply coincidence, luck or happenstance. But life events started looking differently to me when I made the choice to notice -- when I was willing to see meaning in mundane events. Simply noticing makes a difference.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Awe and Wonder

Some time ago, I was online looking for an article I had seen referenced in Spirituality & Health. I found the article, then noticed a self-test to determine what spiritual practices would be most beneficial. I took the test and the spiritual practice that was recommended for me was WONDER.

“There is no end to the things that can awaken our wonder, from the majesty of the night sky to the smell of lilacs in the spring to the turning of the leaves in the fall. And it is all right here, a feast of epiphanies and astonishments in the daily round of our spiritual lives.” (Spirituality & Health website).

Wonder. I like the feeling of wonder. I went from the computer to the TV and flipped to an early morning show and they were talking about .  .  .  . Wonder.  Awe and wonder. I had to laugh, and felt a sense of gratitude for experiencing another mini-miracle.

The message I got was, instead of focusing my attention on what’s not working in my life (which can sometimes be a habit), try looking around at all the beauty. I looked into my backyard and chose to notice the trees and how they were swaying softly in the breeze. I noticed a few butterflies and dragonflies. I noticed the colors of the grass, flowers, trees, sky, clouds – so much to take in.  I felt grounded again; I felt my connection to the universe.

So, awe and wonder is a choice for me now. A practice. Each day I’ll “slow down and tune into the varied world of this and that.” (Spirituality and Health website). Slowing down and tuning in – that’s great advice.  It’s wonder-ful.