deep listening & mindful speech
So much of our suffering gets acted out through the ways we communicate, the ways we listen (or fail to listen) and the way we express ourselves.
We have to start telling our stories so that we can become more acquainted with them and so that we are not doomed to repeat circles of suffering.
The practices of deep listening and mindful speech help us to become more aware and they help us to own and share our stories – the experiences that we've had in our families, in war, and elsewhere.
Instructions on this practice
For this practice, a small group comes together and sits in a circle. Find an object (any kind will do) and put it in the middle of the circle. Begin by allowing yourself to arrive there by taking a few conscious breaths in silence.
When the first person is moved to speak, he or she bows or uses another simple gesture to indicate the intention to pick up the object. With the object in hand, the first speaker breathes in and out three times. As long as you hold the object you are empowered to speak, and the others are empowered to listen.
There is no crosstalk in these groups. One person speaks and the others listen. There is no advice giving, no caretaking, no comforting, and no counseling.
When you speak, speak as honestly and personally as possible and make an effort not to speak from an intellectual perspective. You are invited to speak from a place of Shin (the “heart-mind”) and you have to find this place. You will know it when you find it because when you talk you will begin to tremble or sweat, and the words will pour out of your mouth without thought. Shin is that place deep within.
The circle is not a place for giving dharma talks, theological or philosophical statements or intellectual theories of any kind. It is helpful to stick with I-statements: "I feel..", "I think...", "I experience..."
If someone experiences strong feelings during the sharing, just let them be. Don't just rush in to rescue them. If something is rising in you in reaction to what someone else has said, keep the focus on yourself and talk about your own feelings, thoughts, and perceptions - not someone else's.
When you are finished with speaking, bow or make another gesture to the group to signal that you are finished and place the object back onto the center of the circle. Then sit silently until the next person bows and picks up the object.
There are no leaders in the group, and this is not a therapy group. The practice of deep listening and mindful speech often serves a therapeutic purpose, but it is essentially a form of a spiritual practice.
Critical to this process is anonymity. What's said in the group stays within the group. This is essential in creating a safe place where healing can begin.
This practice is not always comfortable and easy, but it is a powerful one that supports us in waking up.