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The Art of Listening

“Those who know, they know even without my saying and those who do not know, will not know even if I say something." - Buddha Women in our society, and in many societies have historically not been allowed to have a voice, and are ridiculed, denigrated and belittled when we do speak out. Being raised a strong, smart woman - I have seldom been afraid to speak out and speak my mind when I feel I have something to say...I am NOT one to hold my tongue. That being said, it has sometimes gotten me into trouble when I have spoken too soon and not considered all possible outcomes of my words or how meaning may be misconstrued. So, a little over 2 years ago, I began a practice I call "The Art of Listening" and I practiced it for about a year and a half. I still use this practice in my relationships and communications - especially with clients, although it has become less of a daily conscious practice. I recommend this practice for all who want to try to heal the divides in our country. I recommend it for those who want to try to understand the "other". We can never truly understand what it is like to live another's life or walk in their shoes, but we CAN listen, REALLY LISTEN and show empathy. Social media makes it so easy for us to unleash our thoughts and feelings at the very moment we experience them. People react without reflection. Sometimes they don't even take the time to read what they are responding to correctly, they are so fired up and ready to react. I don't know how this country is going to heal itself after this election. Having done a great deal of research myself to try to understand how we got to where we are, and finding out that those at the top of the big corporations - the wealthy 1% - have gotten to the point where they can control our education system, our churches (especially the evangelicals), our universities, museums, media, courts, police, and even scientists. They are on the verge of re-writing our history as well - to reflect their own greed and desire to accumulate more and more and more. If these wealthy elite spent as much on their communities as they did on buying politicians, we could have solved world hunger and homelessness by now. But that wouldn't put money in their pockets, it would only make the world safer and better for others by providing opportunity and education and basic needs like food, shelter, clean water and healthcare. The divide between those who continue to support these corporations and those who stand against them is reaching a breaking point. If we tune out from what science is telling us, if we deny the facts that are in front of our faces, if we refuse to listen to our neighbor's struggles and their fears for their children's lives, what does this say about us as a human race? How will we effect positive change? I encourage others to try this practice of Active Listening as a way of stepping back and really hearing what other people are saying, without reacting. You can react in your own mind - you can be angry or disagree, but don't say anything - process it for awhile. Sit with it. Ask yourself why you feel the way you do. It will help you to, at the very least, be able to better articulate your thoughts and feelings when you do speak. According to the Vaca Sutta, the Buddha said, "Monks, a statement endowed with five factors is well-spoken, not ill-spoken. It is blameless & unfaulted by knowledgeable people. Which five? It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will. A statement endowed with these five factors is well-spoken, not ill-spoken. It is blameless & unfaulted by knowledgeable people." IF we spend time listening to how others really feel, and then process our own thoughts and step outside of them to see the bigger picture, while keeping the advice of the Buddha in mind, we may make better and kinder choices. Om Shanti. Namaste.

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