This morning I met with some women for coffee and conversation – not my kindred-spirit women folk, but good, kind women. We shared a good, long, easy, hard, funny, and sad conversation. It was wonderful.
But I didn’t always feel this way. By nature, I’m a somewhat private person, an introvert, I suppose. It used to be, I just didn’t have much to say to people, and the uneasiness of conversation sometimes prevented me from listening to them too.
I used to think that I wasn’t interested in or capable of carrying on a conversation with others. A conversation was hard to start-up, to keep rolling along, and to finish off. It was awkward.
Good conversation is portable pleasure.
Over the years, though, I’ve noticed that I enjoy a good conversation with just about anyone I meet, whether she be the closest of friends or just a friendly face at the marketplace I may never meet again.
I’ve discovered the pleasure from, I guess even learned how to be part of, a good conversation. Being with others, listening to and speaking whatever words happen to come along next has brought more meaning and much happiness to my life.
It’d be interesting to converse with the child, the teen, the young adult who struggled to carry on in conversation. I’d like to reassure them, encourage them, show them, and just allow them to experience being with others, exchanging thoughts, spouting opinions, garnering ideas, gaining insights, and, oh! sharing the love, and the laughs.
They discovered, in their own sweet little time, those brilliant, beautiful beings, that being with other people is one of life’s greatest pleasures. And I’m happy for them, for me. I’ve discovered what makes for good conservation.
Allow silence to fill the space.
I used to dread that awkward silence that happened in conversations, not knowing how to respond, what to say next, or even wondering where this was all going, taking me with it.
Now, I’ve noticed that silence keeps space in conversation, allowing me to just be aware, aware of my body, my breath, almost not thinking, but just experiencing being with the other person.
This silence, this open space allows the natural rhythm of thoughts and ideas to form, to flow, free from the seemingly social yet personal necessity to fill it, to react as emotions, opinions, and judgments arise, to quickly formulate the words to say next, which all just interrupt what’s actually being said now.
Today, I allowed this silence, I just noticed my thoughts and emotions as they bubbled up and then floated away. The conversation simply ebbed and flowed, sustained in moments of silence. It was comforting.
Listen without a thought – care.
Most people never listen. — Ernest Hemingway
It’s a strong statement, but it’s an observation too. Hemingway was a lonely writer. I wonder if he felt alone because, as he generalized, people never listen. Did you know that just listening to lonely or sad people helps them? Good listening is powerfully good.
And good listeners care. So when I read (in general) that people generally don’t listen well, I wonder if it’s just a habit or if they really don’t care. I openly admit that not listening well is a habit of mine, but I do care. And I care to listen.
I care about these women and I care about other people in general. My everyday intentions are to practice kind thoughts, kind words, and kind acts. I’m with Malcolm Jackson when he writes, “I love people. We’re all totally sweet beneath the other stuff.” Love is a good verb.
It’s that other stuff that gets in the way of listening – thoughts, opinions, judgments, control, ego really. Listening, even though I am the person
doing practicing it, is really all about the other person. The other person wants me to listen, to hear her.
Along with the intention of kind acts, I’ll add listen. I intend to clear my mind and then focus on the person. I’ll gently pay attention to my thoughts as they come, and when I’m thinking of my response instead of listening, I’ll simply refocus. I’ll just listen. I practiced listening to these women today.
Who are these good, kind women?
I met these women for coffee and conversation because I want to know them, and I’m sure they want to know me. It is through this continuous flow of conversation that we reveal ourselves to each other. It’s quite intimate, conversation. The more we converse, the more we get to know one another, and practice compassion, kindness, and love.
When these women, people in general, know that I care to listen, to really listen, they feel understood, accepted, and loved. I know that listening is not really about the meaning of their words, it’s about the meaning in their lives.
I want this practice of mindful listening to become an easy, natural way of conversing. I want my practice to allow, encourage others to express themselves, and to allow me to know them. I want mindful listening to sustain the ebb and flow of conversation, and sustain us.
Practice and transform over time.
As I continue to practice listening, I’ll become a better listener. The practice in itself is good, but the transformation over time will be wondrous. Listening to others, caring, understanding, accepting, and loving, will bring happiness to both of us. The more I listen, with focused patience, non-judgment, and kindness, the more others will trust in sharing.
They’ll share their thoughts, curiosities, wonderings, hopes, dreams, and hearts – and they’ll release their frustrations, worries, regrets, sorrows, and fears. This practice is powerful, this gift of listening. It’s transforming.
I practice being a mindful listener, fully present, not choosing to focus on the past or the future, but simply allowing those thoughts when they float in to simply drift away. I saw glimpses of my practice today, and I am proud of my presence of mind – and this mindful listener, me.
Do you converse easily with others? Are you a mindful listener? What transformations have you seen in other people, and in you?