When I think of all the times I let the responses of others to my story guide the way I lived inside my story, I feel a kind of melancholy for the girl that lived within this kind of pressure box. Trust me when I say that I hold no one but me accountable for my response. However, I live now very mindful of how my own responses to the stories of others might affect them.
I have a colleague friend who has been such a great example to me of what this looks like in real time. Whenever someone shares something that has been difficult or a problem, his first response is one of empathy. Solutions are given only upon request, and I have never once felt judged by him even when I know he would have done things differently himself.
Letting go of what others think and embracing how I feel is important for my personal well being, but it also serves as a keen reminder to me of the needs of others around me. Most of us just would like to be heard—most of us just want a listening ear.
And listening is an art form.
I suppose it goes hand in hand with being present and mindful. Sitting with someone in their story is very different from hearing someone’s story. To me, listening and sitting are partners in the work of living mindfully in the present.
Listening is paying attention.
So today I choose to pay attention. To notice those around me carrying sadness, or sitting in grief, or rejoicing in personal victory. “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” is the exact definition of listening with your life. Jealously and envy dissipate when we truly rejoice with those who are rejoicing. Likewise, haughtiness and superiority go out the window when we sit in grief with those who are weeping.
Listening is being grateful in the moment.
When I am grateful for each moment in my own story, whether good or bad, I learn to sit with others in a kind of peaceful contentment that neither judges nor offers solutions. This is the very hardest for me. I always want to help and offer solutions, but most often less is more. Breathing in the positive of each moment isn’t just a simple-minded solution. It’s an internal game changer. Our whole outlook changes when breathe in the positive and breathe out the negative.
Listening to ourselves and others brings contentment.
The more we learn to listen, the more we encourage others to walk inside their own stories, the more content we will be inside our own. Listening to others encourages them to look the world in the eye and know that they are worthy, they are enough, and they are loved.
Are you listening?
You are worthy.
You are enough.
You are loved.
Lilting, her voice sang across the meadow:
breezing by, the butterflies danced to the tune;
grazing, the cows stopped chewing to listen;
buzzing, bees set about their pollen work;
resting, she settled into the tall grass
breathing out, she exhaled all of her worries.
sighing, she prayed another day to sing.
—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan
How are you doing today? I’d love to hear your story.