Listening Deeply to Every Kind of Sound

Buddha with Abhaya mudra, a symbol of fearlessness and protection. Photo by Linda Jackson.

Listening Deeply to Every Kind of Sound

Discussion date: Thu, May 13, 2021 at our weekly Thursday evening practice
May 13, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Silver Spring, Maryland, community online on Thursday evening
May 14, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all online on Friday evening

Dear Still Water Friends, Dear Sangha,

The Fourth Mindfulness training calls us to listen deeply and to speak with compassion and understanding. This has been a very important and humbling teaching for me. For most of my life I held the belief that I was a very good listener. What I have learned, as I have looked more deeply into this training, is that I am still learning how to listen to myself and others. I am also still learning how to respond with understanding and true love.

Deep listening is a skill to be cultivated and grown. Just as I learn every year a better way to grow my garden, so I am learning new ways to listen. One thing that was very helpful to me this winter was the opportunity to spend a lot of time alone in the woods. My winter walks gave me the opportunity to listen to Mother Earth, to hear her wisdom and comfort as well as her sorrows. My conversations with the trees encouraged me to learn new ways to practice deep listening with the people in my life. I became aware of the importance of listening with all of my senses: my eyes, ears, heart, body, and intuition. Listening with my whole being has helped me to hear what is not being said and to look deeper.

I am grateful that I had more time in lockdown to listen to myself and understand myself. Taking care of my own pain helps me to understand and offer comfort to others. As a result, I was able to do a bit of time travel and listen to loved ones who have passed, especially my grandparents and parents. This brought me to a deeper understanding of their challenges and their love for me. I am thankful for the many ways my family nurtured and encouraged me. I see that my natural tendency toward happiness is a flower of their loving, non-reactive speech.

Thay encourages us to look to the Bodhisattva of Compassion as our teacher and inspiration. I’d like to close with a short quote from Thich Nhat Hanh from Teachings on Love:

The practice of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is to listen very deeply to every kind of sound, including the sound of pain from within and without.

Listening to the bell, the wind, the water, the insects and all living beings is part of our practice. When we know how to listen deeply and how to breathe deeply in mindfulness, everything becomes clear and deep.

Thay has helped me to see that deep listening and loving speech are born from mindfulness and go hand in hand. They walk together. It is my aspiration to learn to listen more deeply, and speak with more clarity, understanding  and compassion. I trust that this will help me share true love and to grow joy and peace in myself and othersThis Thursday and Friday evenings, after our meditation period, we will recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings and explore together the Fourth Mindfulness Training: Loving Speech and Deep Listening. You are invited to join us.

We will begin our Dharma sharing with these questions:

  • How can we cultivate deep listening?
  • What are the fruits of deep listening and loving speech in our lives?

The text of the Fourth Mindfulness Training and an excerpt by Thich Nhat Hanh on Avalokitesvara and the Universal Door are below.

I look forward to being with you.

Linda Jackson

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The Universal Door
by Thich Nhat Hanh, from For a Future to Be Possible

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is a person who has learned the art of listening and speaking deeply in order to help people let go of their fear, misery, and despair. He is the model of this practice, and the door he opens is called the “universal door.” If we practice listening and speaking according to Avalokitesvara, we too will be able to open the universal door and bring joy, peace, and happiness to many people and alleviate their suffering.

The universal door manifests itself
in the voice of the rolling tide.
Hearing and practicing it, we become a child,
born from the heart of a lotus,
fresh, pure, and happy,
capable of speaking and listening
in accord with the universal door.
With only one drop of the water
of compassion
from the branch of the willow,
spring returns to the great Earth.

The Fourth Mindfulness Trainings: Loving Speech and Deep Listening

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, May 13, 2021


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