The way of the listener
Since I became a listener, I don't think there has been a day in my life, when I have not been practising my listening.
I am a creature of opportunity where listening is concerned. When there is a chance to listen, I don't like it to slip past me.
Once you are a listener, you live in the consciousness of the listener for the rest of your life. You are choosing to be open in a radical way. You are a different animal, with different ways of hearing as compared to normal folk.
You are always a listener. Always stretching, always balancing. It is ongoingly keen. This is the only reality, the only way to live. In a flash of distraction, you fall off into the river.
It is an adventure filled with poignancy and laughter.
Listening is less a matter of skills than of sensitivities.
All of us have some of these, to some extent. Unfortunately, our sensitivities cast a shadow, in which it is hard to see that other sensitivities lie dormant in us. They are not active yet.
You know how it is at night, when one area is brightly lit. You see nothing in the shadows. In just this way, we are blinded by the light of our own sensitivities.
Whenever we seem to lack a certain sensitivity, people we listen to are thwarted. An avenue is closed to them. We need to celebrate sensitivities which are already awakened in us, to be aware of sensitivities lying dormant.
A small awakening of sensitivity may have a big effect.
As a listener, you face dangers.
Yet all dangers come to this – that you may be unreal, inhuman, less than half alive to the fullness of your own feelings and responses.
You face being vulnerable too, as the depth of pain in the world is borne in upon you.
The listener treads delicately at all times, in this wild and intricate world – for people are in more pain than they can bear to feel.
You will always be helpful, since you are there, and are not afraid.
To follow the way of the listener, you must be empty.
Set down, beside you, your feelings, knowledge and know-how. When you are already full, how can there be room for the other person?
In emptiness, the listener responds freely to the fullness of the other, sensing the movement of life, the subtle ebb and flow of relational depth.
The empty space is a sacred space, if only we can keep it empty.
Next: Close listening