My “perfect” word for 2017, listening, is subtly making its presence known to me through random articles, quotes, conversations and personal encounters. Suddenly I am more aware of the power of this word. In the title Mary Oliver quote (Listen. Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?) the message hits pretty close to home some days.
I have come to realize that I hold my breath much more than I should when confronted with a problem or situation that is out of my control… from my end.
It can be waiting to hear the results of a health problem, a financial crisis, or news about a friend or loved one’s stressful predicament and, unconsciously, I hold my breath or take small shallow breaths…like someone tip-toeing around who doesn’t want to be heard or seen…just vanish into thin air.
I have never been good at direct frontal confrontations (thus the shallow breathing). I like to sneak in the back door. I am, also, a people pleaser and fixer. I want to make everything good again for everybody…which creates scenarios where I advise instead of just listening. I am slowly becoming aware that, in most cases, listening is the best advice…just being present for people.
God is helping me with my new ‘perfect’ word so far this year by sending Winks and Advice my way if “I am still and listen.” For example this quote popped up on Google while researching quotes on listening. Listen and Silent contain the same number of letters…a lesson in using the two words simultaneously…being one and the same.
Really paying attention to the world around us and taking time to listen is such a gift and so important in the way we learn, understand, and perceive the world God created for us.
When we really listen to someone else…it is the most unselfish act of compassion we can give. We aren’t thinking about us or our agenda for the day or how to bring an end to an uncomfortable conversation so we can leave…we simply listen.
Yesterday my regularly scheduled weekly article from Amit. Awakin showed up… and as you can imagine it is about the gift of listening over random advising. Here is an excerpt from it.
My Misgivings About Advice
My misgivings about advice began with my first experience of clinical depression thirty-five years ago. The people who tried to support me had good intentions. But, for the most part, what they did left me feeling more depressed.
Some went for the nature cure: “Why don’t you get outside and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air? Everything is blooming and it’s such a beautiful day!” When you’re depressed, you know intellectually that it’s beautiful out there. But you can’t feel a bit of that beauty because your feelings are dead — and being reminded of that gap is depressing.
Other would-be helpers tried to spruce up my self-image: “Why so down on yourself? You’ve helped so many people.” But when you’re depressed, the only voice you can hear is one that tells you that you’re a worthless fraud. Those compliments deepened my depression by making me feel that I’d defrauded yet another person: “If he knew what a worm I am, he’d never speak to me again.”
Here’s the deal. The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through.
Aye, there’s the rub. Many of us “helper” types are as much or more concerned with being seen as good helpers as we are with serving the soul-deep needs of the person who needs help. Witnessing and companioning take time and patience, which we often lack — especially when we’re in the presence of suffering so painful we can barely stand to be there, as if we were in danger of catching a contagious disease. We want to apply our “fix,” then cut and run, figuring we’ve done the best we can to “save” the other person.
And yet, we have something better: our gift of self in the form of personal presence and attention, the kind that invites the other’s soul to show up. As Mary Oliver has written, “This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”
As I continue to see more connections between me and the universe I understand what the poet Mary Oliver means when she says:
“Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”
So until tomorrow: I am, finally, recognizing the ‘throbs and pings’ of every day life now and how witnessing simple acts of kindness can bring tears to my eyes. I know my soul is reacting to these daily “Winks” and alerting the rest of me to pay attention to the small things in life…to listen to my soul talking to me…to listen to God whisper from my soul.
“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh
*I got a real scare from Samantha, my lovely friend, at Simple to Sublime. Like all good (retired) teachers I didn’t read the fine print but went “big picture” and thought Samantha was closing her shop. I had to go get some tissue, calm down enough to read the cute “wink” about closing sales on Short Central, not shops, and I was happy again and ready to spread the good news!!!
Don’t panic, no one is going out of business. The opposite in fact! In order to make room for expansions and new selections, several stores need to reduce the current, awesome inventory! At Simple To Sublime many items in all categories will be HALF OFF!
Sale starts Thursday and ends Feb 4 (or sooner). Piazza Home is sprucing up with new carpet and is offering 25% off everything in their store. Four Green Fields Summerville is also offering 25% off storewide, including clearance! So come shop Short Central!! Please note that Simple To Sublime will closed on Weds 25th to prepare for the sale!
*Last night I remembered (just as the sun was sinking in the west) that I had forgotten to take out the trash bin for pick-up today. After I dragged out the bin…I felt such beauty all around me and while picking up some debris from the garden all the lanterns started coming on.
It truly felt like a fairy was flying from solar lantern to solar lantern waving her magic wand and turning each one on. When the bottle tree with the colored bottles all came on…I gasped. That was magic…usually only one or two colored light bottles come on at night…never all together. It was a special night reminding me how much I love my ‘Happy Place”..- my home!