Iyanla Vanzant was one of my first companions on my journey into self. Her fiery passion and insight steered me through those early realisations of the extent of my power over self and everything in my experience.
I am sharing a piece from “Until Today” not just because of the clarity with which it expresses a need which we all have, but also because that same discipline of listening from the heart is essential in transformational healing.
Unless you are able to show up in the space of all possibilities without any expectation, judgement, opinion or internal dialogue, you will not hear what needs to be heard, or see what needs to be seen. You will not feel what words cannot express.
So also if you anticipate communication or revelation in a particular form: just because your previous client with post natal depression showed you in colours the location of her disconnect, does not mean that this one will too. No, she might whisper words to you or show you by the way she folds her body to protect herself. She might take you to that hidden experience or lead you to something altogether different that you need to see first. You cannot expect and anticipate; if you do, you will not witness what most needs your sight.
Nor can you have an opinion about the pain, anger, fear, guilt, sorrow, whatever it is you witness. You cannot be overwhelmed by it, infuriated or frustrated by it. It is not for you to attribute meaning; your job is to remain present whatever your senses share. Simply allow what Is.
By practising being present in our day to day interactions we learn this discipline. Notice your internal dialogue next time you speak with someone you really care about. You consider yourself attentive, yet notice how your mind wanders to what else you need to do today, or how you can already hear the words you will speak in reply. We are rarely fully present; it is not our habit.
In casual conversations with those we do not know well, such presence is rarer still. Yet notice what happens to the quality of such an interaction when you do listen from your heart, as if it is the most important, the only, thing that matters in the universe at that moment.
I have noticed that most people are not used to being heard in this way, and they respond at a heart level. When they smile and acknowledge you, you will see in their eyes they know that something is different. These are sacred moments; our work is to habituate such behaviours, to make ordinary the extraordinary, and so honour all our deepest selves. It begins with the simplest thing; be still, and listen. From there we learn to not only hear the other who stands before us, but to witness what our well being and wholeness most demands.
From “Until Today” by Iyanla Vanzant :
I open my heart and mind to be aware…when I am listening to myself, I cannot hear other people.
We are taught that communication is a two-way process. Consequently, we are not aware that there are three essential elements. There is talking, there is listening and there is hearing. We talk a great deal because we have much to say. In fact, we talk so much we often miss the point someone else is trying to make. Our talk about our past experience is loaded with perceptions and judgements. When we are listening, what we hear gets filtered through the same. We do talk, and we can listen. What challenges most of us is learning how to hear.
If you really want to hear someone when they trust you enough to talk to you, don’t listen to the words, hear how the words are spoken. All too often, we cannot hear the words because we come to the conversation with our own ideas about who people are. At the same time, we are determined not to let them see who we are. In order for effective and valued communication to occur, you must believe that you are safe, and you must offer that same safety to the other person.
If you want to communicate with another person, you must hear their fear and not dismiss it. You must hear a person’s pain and not overlook it. It is important to hear a person’s guilt and not buy into it. You must be ready to hear a person’s anger and not fuel it. Most people need to know that they have been heard. Listen to their body. Listen to their eyes. Listen to colours they are wearing, the way they touch their hair. Listen to the volume. Listen to the tempo. If you really want to hear someone, open your heart and listen to their soul.
Until today, you may not have been able to hear what people are saying to you. Just for today, close your eyes when you are in a conversation. Hear every word that is spoken through the center of your heart.