“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”
There is a simple way to improve any relationship. And it’s called listening. I don’t mean listening while you are formulating your response, or listening but assuming you already know what is going to be said, or listening while you are answering an email or watching TV.
I mean listening – with openness, with curiosity, with your heart wide open. When you show up as empty, aware presence, miracles happen.
I recently sat with a client who was sharing some difficult feelings. I automatically went into fix-it mode, offering suggestions to help her move through the pain, and she thankfully resisted every one. “Just relax,” I told myself.
I turned away from any need to save or help, and softened into the vast space of being that allows everything as is. As I followed her lead, supporting her exploration, her own connection with infinite wisdom guided her to exactly what she needed to know.
I got out of the way and listened.
How to Be Present
Living as aware presence in our relationships is so rare. It asks us to slow down, to put aside our opinions and dilemmas, to inhabit questions rather than answers. It is an offering we can make that is free, available, and holds the potential for so much healing.
We melt any personal barriers, which creates the space for true intimacy, where we meet in the one heart of love. Deep listening is one of the most loving things you can do for another.
As aware presence, we arrive to our interactions clear and clean. We are empty of our:
We are filled only with loving space that receives, that wants to know.
Being There for Another
Imagine being this space with your partner or child or parent. You erase everything that has happened in the past, and you see the person before you as if for the first time. You might wonder:
- What is important to you?
- What are your fears?
- What do you need?
- What thrills and elates you?
- What is your experience in this moment?
- What else would you like to say?
And you listen to each response with rapt attention. “Oh, I see, it’s like that for you.” You are perfectly in rapport, accepting the other unconditionally. You are empty, aware presence.
Have a conversation like the one I am describing and let me know if your heart doesn’t break open.
Now take this way of being to your workplace, your gym, your neighborhood, the post office and grocery store. Can you open your heart to everyone you meet – no separation, no distance?
You Have the Power to Be the Healing Balm
In this day and age, many of us feel alienated from ourselves. We crave attention, control, and security to assuage our fears. We strategize to get what we want from others because we resist meeting our deepest feelings.
The result is a painful lack of intimacy that keeps us isolated. We long to be accepted for who we are, but fear being rejected if we were to reveal the whole truth about ourselves. This is the root of all our relationship struggles.
Loving presence is the healing balm. When you are empty and aware and offer others your unconditional interest, the walls begin to crumble. There is a return to wholeness, acceptance, and clarity and a welcome sense of relief from no longer having to maintain a protective vigil. You and the apparent other relax into the space where you meet as love.
My challenge to you is to take one interaction – with anyone – and show up as empty, aware presence. Ask questions from a place of curiosity, and let the answers drop all the way into your loving heart. It doesn’t have to be a heavy discussion. An everyday, seemingly superficial interaction or one with a stranger is the perfect place to start. You will make someone’s day, I promise you.
And you are likely to find what I have discovered – intimacy, connection, happiness, a heart overflowing.
I’d love to hear how it goes…
Note: I am honored to have been asked to write a chapter in Leo Babauta’s new book, Focus: A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction. My chapter addresses how to overcome fears of focusing. I don’t receive anything if you buy the book, but you will undoubtedly benefit from tons of practical suggestions that support a sane and happy life in these crazy, overstimulating times we live in. I highly recommend it.