Building a More Loving Community this Holiday Season: “Just Listen”
“Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, Do you hear what I hear …”
—Do You Hear What I Hear (song lyrics by Noel Regney and music by Gloria Shayne Baker).
“It sounds simple, but just talking to someone helps me. I talk to my mom or my best friend. They understand.”
—Amy Walker, HEART GUIDE (in memory of her father).
At a recent grief workshop, a woman who lost her grandchild told me that my next blog should be entitled, “Just Listen.”
Listening is a skill that requires patience, compassion, and tenderness. Often, when events or people bring up strong emotions for us, our response is not to listen. Instead, we may want to quickly fix (or ignore) a situation to avoid feeling uncomfortable; or we may want to argue, defend, justify, shutdown, or blame rather than feel our own or another person’s intense sadness.
While writing HEART GUIDE, I listened to people from different cultural, political, racial, and religious backgrounds who expressed their experiences with the loss of a loved one. The youngest person was 19 and the oldest individual was 89. I found that listening to another person’s suffering requires an open heart. That means listening without an agenda. My intention was to ask each person what helped with their healing and then simply to listen.
In a world sometimes fueled by divisiveness, there are ways to practice deep listening, despite our differences:
- Place your hand over your heart. Take three, slow, deep breaths.
- Feel your breath going in and out of your body. Feel your heart pumping. Keep your hand pressed against your chest.
- Imagine friends and family members, with hands over their hearts, feeling the same thing we feel.
- Now imagine people we do not know, or even people we may not like, with their hands over their hearts, feeling the very same thing that we feel. Their hearts, pumping.
- Take three more slow, deep breaths.
The seed of compassion is within each of us. Compassion for our sorrows. Compassion for our hopes. Compassion for our, as yet, distant dreams.
Tending to that seed of compassion and helping it to grow begins within. Spend some time there today. Release the fears. Release the anger. Release the need to control. Release the agendas. Release all that does not serve a gentle, loving heart. Release all that does not serve the greater good.
Once the heart seed is found, breathe into it the nutrients it lacks. Breathe more joy into it. Breathe more awareness into it. Breathe more peace into it. Breathe more wisdom into it. Breathe more love into it.
This seed of compassion is your strength. This seed is your courage. This seed is how we begin to heal.
Listen to what it needs. Compassionate heart work is extremely important—don’t discount it. Healing the broken places in our own hearts creates ripples that help us to heal the world.
Next, listen to the trees, to the birds, to the wind, to the stream, to the earth. Ask what is needed. Ask how you can help. Ask what it is that we are here to learn.
Listen to others.
Listen with an open heart to their stories. Listen to their sorrows. Listen to their hopes, visions, and dreams. Listen solely to hear and to understand.
With hands pressed over our hearts, we can find within ourselves compassion for all people’s sorrows. We can wish for their healing and for their wellbeing.
This is how we heal, collectively.
This is how we learn to care for each other.
This is how we remember that we share this planet with other humans, who also have families and people they love.
During this holiday season, may our hearts be filled with peace.
May our thoughts, words, and actions bring happiness—to ourselves, to others, and to the world.
By listening, deeply, with love.
In joy & gratitude,