I am thinking a lot at the moment about real listening. What does it really mean to actually listen to somebody?
Where I have got to is that to listen is to slow down, to absorb, to experience with all our senses what is being shared. It is actually a space we create - a space that is loving, open-ended and flexible. Really listening to someone is the same as really loving someone.
And this is what I am finding interesting right now: that when it comes to listening to children, especially when they are little, the trick is actually not to listen too closely to the words. Real listening becomes a whole other art form with young children because you have to come from the place of holding the bigger picture for them. And we can learn so much from listening so consciously in this way.
What they really want, they will tell us with their bodies, with their energy, with their behaviour and simply with how the day is playing out - and the way you really listen is to love them, to see them and to hold onto your position of loving authority.
A good example of this is when my children come to me and complain of boredom. When this happens, I do not hear the words 'I'm bored' and go into action, thinking of ways to entertain them or worrying that they don't have enough stimulation or playdates lined up. Instead, I do my best to slow down, become present to them and experience them so that I can respond appropriately.
Invariably, moments after declarations of terrible and unbearable boredom (often expressed with deep sighs while stretching out dramatically on a sofa) a beautifully new and creative game, activity or artistic project will emerge - or a friend will call and invite us to the playground. Because boredom is actually a landing space on which new and brilliant things can land.
But if I didn't really listen - with all of me, to all of them - I would react instantly to the words, to the complaint, and I would actually hinder the unfolding that wants to happen - and they would never learn what on earth to do with the feeling of boredom.
And what this is teaching me is that when someone shouts at me or acts with aggression or anger, if I am really willing to listen, I will hear and sense how hard they are on themselves, how unkind and unforgiving their parents were, how much they need to be in control so that they don't have to feel their despair and rage and so on. In other words, I will experience their reality rather than what they are presenting me with.
And when I really listen, I can respond with presence and kindness and maybe even with a quiet blessing and a prayer that things become easier for the other person. (Note: I am still working on this one with one of our scary neighbours and I'm not quite there yet but at least I'm trying!)
love Hollie x