“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen
I have felt under a microscope of late. This may be some of my own doing, but it is unsettling nonetheless. My friends, my family, my coworkers, everyone seems to have an opinion for me, albeit unsolicited. Receiving unsolicited “feedback” can be unnerving, especially when purposefully making a decision to not extend the same to others. I may be going about my life in a manner that is unique to those that I love, but that does not make it strange, wrong or in need of constant correction.
Listening as an act of love has become a lost art. It is rare to stumble across a soul that happily listens to another’s ideas, theories or troubles without feeling the need to offer opinions. I simply have never understood the need for others to force an ideology or otherwise and find it difficult to be around people who speak rather than listen. I am everything, yet I am nothing, drifting in and out of a collage of ideas. Nothing is taken but everything is observed. It is only with constant observation and introspection that I begin to see clear lines in place of blurred boundaries.
“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”
― Thomas Merton
It is also imperative to listen to oneself. I have many ideas of my own of which I hold tight. I rarely share all that I am even with those that I am closest too. There exists a constant discomfort that by revealing all, I will frighten away loved ones with my utopian ideas. Similarly, I have a constant fear of losing myself in the energy of another. When deeply listening, I often become an unlikely participant in the others goals. The sharing of personal goals is often a covert invitation of participation. While honored to be included, I am constantly vigilant that my dreams do not get lost or rewritten inside the vortex of this exchange. Having made this mistake far too many times in the past, I am protective of my own imaginative endeavors. By privately holding new ideas, I have time to come to terms with how I might bring them to fruition, irrespective of others opinions. I choose to listen intently to myself in the quite space of uninterrupted thought.
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Listening in all forms is an act of compassion, much different from criticism. Excessive criticism, even of self, will not toughen one up as many of our parents’ generation thought. Excessive criticism is just that, excessive. It has no place in a compassionate relationship. I am very sensitive to criticism and as such find that when my shields are up, I tend to fall back into criticism as a defense. It is a pattern learned from childhood and one that I am not proud of. Never one to yell, this criticism can be muted, but still hurtful and definitely not compassionate. I see others fall prey to this same pattern at work and can now recognize that somewhere they learned the behavior and have not yet mastered self-compassion. We all carry with us learned behaviors that do not serve well. It is our responsibility and life lesson to recognize these habits and actively work to disarm them.
I feel the energy becoming quietly agitated of late, ushering in a time of intense work and thoughtful and compassionate listening. With so many possibilities on the horizon, it is time to listen and slowly come to a place of decision and or action. Nothing need be rushed. My daily commitment is that I am gentle with myself during this process. I actively choose to listen, feel the shift of energy, see the Divine signs and hear my calling. Change is brewing just as with the seasons. The darkness of winter is looming on the horizon with the light airy feeling of summer fleeting. Take a moment and set some intentions, some aspirations and internalize them. Give seed to an idea that will blossom in the spring given some deep listening, compassion and patience. Dream.