In his book Meditating Together, Speaking from Silence, vipassana teacher Gregory Kramer offers a practice that can help us break such patterns of reaction right in the midst of communicating. He writes, “There is sitting meditation. There is walking meditation. Why not listening and speaking meditation? Isn’t it sensible that one could practice mindfulness in relationship and so get better at it?”Greg calls his interpersonal meditation practice Insight Dialogue. While engaged in conversation, instead of immediately responding when someone speaks,
- We pause for a moment, relax our body and mind.
- Mindfully notice what we are experiencing.
- Inquire, “What really wants attention?”
- Notice the feelings and thoughts that are arising.
- Are we judging or interpreting or commenting on what another person is saying?
- What sensations are we experiencing in our body?
- By pausing and paying attention we become acutely aware of our patterns of reaction.
LISTEN FROM THE HEART.
While others are speaking try to let go of your own thoughts and pay attention to what they are saying. This means letting go of your agenda for the conversation. Stay aware of the feelings and sensations that occur throughout your body and especially in the heart area. Be particularly aware of your mind wandering off into judgments. If you find yourself criticizing, analyzing or interpreting meet these thoughts with mindfulness, let them go and return to receptive listening.
This doesn’t mean you are agreeing with whatever is being said, but rather you are honoring the other by offering your full presence and attention. Let your listening be wholehearted and deep, paying attention to the person’s tone, pitch, volume and words. In addition to content, allow yourself to receive the mood and spirit of what another is expressing.
To cover up the strong wants and fears we might feel in close relationships, we often hide behind our persona. We react to one another out of habit, instantaneously, lost in our patterns of defending, pretending, judging and distancing.
When we have hurt someone, the key elements are:
- Taking responsibility for causing pain to another.
- Listening deeply to understand the person’s suffering.
- Sincerely apologizing and renewing our resolve to act with compassion toward this person and all beings.
” These simple yet powerful ways of paying attention and relating wisely with others open and free our heart.”
Compiled with permission from Radical Acceptance, by Tara Brach, ISBN 0-533-38099-0