Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Deep Listening Conversation

I am engaged in an online conversation at Global Mindshift on The Art of Listening. As part of the conversation, we were asked to watch two short videos on YouTube. One with Professor Jacob Needleman and the other an interview from 1974 with Krishnamurti. I watched both videos and was intrigued with what both had to say. But even more so, I was amazed by me mind as I watched them.

Time to tell on myself! As I was listening to Krishnamurti's interview I caught my mind wandering. It was thinking about an article I have to write on homelessness. I thought about opening a blank page in Word. I caught myself thinking -- I could listen to the interview and write my article at the same time!

Hello! Where did deep listening become multi-tasking with half my mind engaged and the other half scrambling to keep up?

It was a good awakening as I realize that I often do that. I begin with listening and then slide into the list of things to do, of forward thinking my responses. I listen with 'half an ear' open to the conversation and the rest on what's happening in my mind.

Krishnamurti's interview was interesting -- can I hear you if I only hear you through my filter of what I see when I am listening to you?

Yesterday, while standing talking to a TV reporter in our driveway at the shelter where I work, a native client came up to talk to me about his art. The reporter had finished interviewing me and we were just waiting for the cameraman to finish up his shooting. The man approached and started to tell us what a gifted artist he is, and how he loves to paint. He was somewhat inebriated, and I remember this feeling of slight embarrassment as the reporter looked a bit disquieted by the man's appearance.

"I'm a great artist," the man said. "Why don't you come up to our art studio?" I asked him. "I'm a great artist," he repeated. "Yes. And we have an art studio you could come and use," I repeated.

Truth is. That man wasn't interested in our art studio -- at least not right then. He wanted to be heard. To be listened to. To be acknowledged as an artist -- not as who he appeared before me, as who I judged him to be -- slightly intoxicated. Stumbling as he walked. A lost soul on the road of life.

He was a man searching for his dignity in the not very dignified world of homelessness. Beneath his story was his heart's desire to be valued. To be seen. And heard. Not as he appeared. But as he truly is inside, beneath his wounds, his addiction, his dirty clothes and finger nails. He yearned to be seen from the spirit out.

And I gave him what he didn't need. What I didn't want to give, because I wasn't listening deeply to myself, nor him.

He didn't need my embarrassment. Nor my pity. Nor my judgement. He needed my deep listening. And, because I was conscious of the reporter beside me, I kept my ears above the waterline of my hearing heart, keeping my mind preoccupied with what I needed her to see and hear, not what the man needed.

I think that's what Krishnamurti is talking about. I was filtering that entire conversation through my 'business' persona, seeing myself and the man through the eyes of the reporter. I was attached to how she perceived me -- even more than I was conscious of how she perceived him. I was not engaged in the interaction between us. Rather than listening to and hearing him -- which is what he needed -- I was conscious of what I perceived she was seeing and hearing in my interaction with him. And I was trying to manage her perceptions.

As Jacob Needleman suggests in his speech, I had an egoistic attachment to my own thoughts. I was not acting upon my moral values, I was listening to my own mind from my place of ego.

In listening to what I learnt through reflection of that encounter, I embrace that part of me that shadows my listening with ego and separates me from hearing what is truly happening around me. I could see the man. I couldn't see my role in devaluing his presence through my lack of authenticity in our interaction.

What a wonderful learning for me. What an awesome place to find myself again. In a place where I can listen deeply to my spirit's expanding into all that I am when I come from that place within me where judgement does not cloud my hearing or damn up my sight with visions of who I want other's to perceive me to be. What a joyous realization to know that I can bridge the divide separating me from who I truly am when I see and look and hear and feel deeply into the beauty and spirit of the other person.

The question is: Are you listening deeply to the conversation you're in, or are you listening with one ear open and the rest of your mind closed off? Are you willing to sink deeper into the art of listening?


Maureen said...


Thank you for the links. I found them worth viewing. Needleman's approach is one used in couples-counseling, and he is so correct that, one, it is difficult to listen deeply to another person and that, two, the rewards of being able to do so may stay with you the rest of your life. The challenge is through the practice, which at first seems awkward, odd, unnatural. It is possible to learn the technique and all too easy to forget to do it.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Thanks Maureen -- and thank you for your comments the other day! I am challenged to listen deeply every day -- I catch myself drifting off. The nice thing is, with my consciousness raised, I can learn the techniques, and imagine I have the memory of an element. I never forget!



Anonymous said...

I re-titled this and used it as the Nov 1 feature for 360boom


M.L. Gallagher said...

Thanks Mark. I appreciate you.


LOL -- I obviously sometimes write and don't 'listen' to what I write. I meant, 'memory of an elephant', not an 'element'!