Dear Still Water Friends,
As we head into the holiday season, making holiday plans can evoke both excitement and dread. While it can be wonderful to spend time with our families, we also may fear that certain familiar communication patterns and entrenched family dynamics will arise during the time we are all together again. How can we keep our hearts open to what is actually happening in the present moment with our loved ones and avoid acting on old habits, patterns, and triggers?
The Fourth Mindfulness Training, “Deep Listening and Loving Speech,” opens a doorway into this challenging situation. In “The Mindfulness Survival Kit,” Thich Nhat Hanh writes:
"The Fourth Mindfulness Training focuses on Right Speech and deep listening because we can only understand another person when we’re truly able to listen to them. When we can listen to others with deep compassion, we can understand their pain and difficulties. This helps us feel calm and receptive, and it’s easy for us to talk with them using loving speech. Loving speech is an essential tool when we want to build a community that’s a healing and loving refuge for people.
"It’s helpful if, before speaking, you’ve practiced being able to listen well. You can begin to practice this on your own by beginning to listen to yourself in your meditation. Listening deeply to another is also a form of meditation. We follow our breathing and practice concentration and we learn things about the other person that we never knew before. When we practice deep listening, we can help the person we’re listening to remove the perceptions that are making her suffer. We can restore harmony in our partnerships, our friendships, our community, our nation, and between nations. It is that powerful."
Thay’s suggestion is to start with listening to ourselves in our own meditation so that we discover the contours of our own hearts before we open to others. By being grounded in our own experience, we are more likely to show compassion and understanding toward our loved ones when we touch their joy and suffering. He encourages us to listen below the words and old patterns and habits to hear what is being expressed from our loved ones’ core beliefs and from their misperceptions, just as we might hope our loved ones would hear us fully, completely, and with enough love and compassion to also hear our misguidedness and love us anyway.
This Thursday, at Crossings, we will have our monthly recitation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. As we focus on the Fourth Training, we will explore how we can learn to open our hearts in difficult situations and what supports us in our practice of listening deeply to ourselves as well as others. We invite you to be with us!
The text of the Fourth Mindfulness Training is below.
Eliza King and Scott Schang
The Fourth Mindfulness Training: Deep Listening and Loving Speech
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 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 look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of 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 to provide understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.