This Thursday evening we will address the Fourth Mindfulness Training: Loving Speech and Deep Listening. As I began to consider this training, I was reminded of a recent instance in which I struggled with compassionate communication.
After this August’s solar eclipse, my mother informed me that she was sure she saw the moon cover at least 95% of the sun, despite the fact that all other sources reported an 83% eclipse for her home of Milwaukee.
“That sounds highly unlikely,” I responded incredulously.
“I could barely see the sun,” she insisted. “I’m sure it looked almost the same as a total eclipse!”
I struggle to understand and respond to my mother, whose experience seemed to differ from mine and from the facts. The 81% eclipse I saw here in Maryland could hardly have been mistaken for a total eclipse. Could not think of anything kind to say. Doubt was all I had to offer. Our conversation suffered.
As I reflected on the situation above, I recognized that I often find myself in similar circumstances, where doubtful, dismissive, or judgmental thoughts get in way of loving speech. Looking at this through the lens of the Fourth Mindfulness Training, I realized that my focus on trying to identify something kind to say can actually get in the way of deep of listening.
If I had focused a little more on deep listening, I might have been able to see past the “facts” in my conversation with my mother. Deep listening might have enabled me to hear her joy and wonder at experiencing a spectacle of nature.
So the next time the topic of the eclipse came up with my mother, I simply observed “It sounded like you were really wowed by what you saw.”
“Yes,” she responded contently, “It was more amazing than I ever expected.” And I finally understood.
On Thursday, after our period of mediation, we can discuss our own experiences with the Fourth Mindfulness Training. What has helped us with Loving Speech and Deep Listening? What can get in the way?
Below is the text of the Fourth Mindfulness Training, along with a related excerpt by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Fourth Mindfulness Training: 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.
From Creating True Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh
The secret of creating peace is that when you listen to another person you have only one purpose: to offer him an opportunity to empty his heart. If you are able to keep that awareness and compassion alive in you, then you can sit for one hour and listen even if the other person’s speech contains a lot of wrong perceptions, condemnations and bitterness. You can continue to listen because you are already protected by the nectar of compassion in your own heart. If you do not practice mindful breathing in order to keep that compassion alive, however, you can lose your own peace. Irritation and anger will come up, and the other person will notice and will not be able to continue. Keeping your awareness keeps you safe.