The recent passing of Thicht Naht Hanh has been felt across the world by so many, including those who knew him as ‘Teacher’. Those who leave such a legacy also open a door to many with their passing. I have to admit to only recently looking more into his teachings and this week at Story Stitchers we have begun that journey by listening. Listening to podcasts and audiobooks, reading and sharing.
We believe that true, unconditional and active listening are in many ways as vital to our very survival and happiness as the air we breathe.
When you make the effort to listen and hear the other side of the story, your understanding increases and your hurt diminishes. – Thicht Naht Hanh
As a child I was always taught the value of a smile, a firm handshake, looking people in the eye etc.
Recent years have challenged the importance, relevance and appropriateness of some of these ‘good first impression’ staples. The pandemic has made the handshake an endangered species and masks have converted the smile into sparkly eyes and waves.
The biggest thing I have taken from these shifts is that while still valuable, maybe first impressions shouldn’t carry the weight they sometimes do. Someone might be late because they are the most generous person in the room, not because they are unreliable or don’t care. Someone might have scruffy shoes because they spend their time thinking how to be better at their job, or how to be a better person, rather than worrying about their shoes. Maybe eye contact is a battle that this person just can’t take on, but they are actually very comfortable in themselves and therefore a huge asset to any team or room. If we take time to listen to them and the information they give us, then we have already moved past so many obstacles.
Listening to your own curiosity
Sometimes the person we find the hardest to listen to is ourselves, for example: the impact or effect of our presence, or when our presence isn’t there. The world can be a busy place where we may feel judged or under constant pressure to be useful. We need to be on time, we need to provide, we need to be organised, motivated and driven. We need to help out the team, be there for our partner and family, keep in touch with friends, do our bit for our community, country or planet. Then we hopefully reach somewhere near the end of our task list, we eat and stop, just in time to go to bed before it all carries on tomorrow. There are many who talk about the need to stop, switch off, take time and escape. With our work we find that we also need the space to listen and be listened to. This can be going along to a class or workshop and having some new people in your life asking you about you and then you listen to others and are genuinely curious to know more about them. Or maybe it’s at work with colleagues who are sharing an idea or information that takes you by surprise or reminds you there is plenty you don’t know about them. Listening is often talked about in situations of major conflict and violence or in politics. But there are so many of us who just don’t get to be around others in a space where everyone listens to each other. A chance to express ourselves, to share in similar or very different views. The chance to go back into the rest of our lives and take in more from it. To listen. To actively listen. It may begin with those closest to us and then we find we are curious about other fascinating and wonderful people that we come into contact with during our lives. As we learn more about them, we learn more about ourselves.
And the great thing about listening is that we can do it straight away, right now. It is also a tool that never runs out and has infinite uses and benefits.
Thank you for listening.