Are You Listening?

thI was uncomfortable with the idea of my turning sixty, which is going to happen in late November.  

I have friends who are older than me who thought they were laughing with me when they saw what they considered feigned distress. “You’re a child,” they said. “Just wait until you’re my age.” 

I have friends who are younger and, with what I read as a patronizing tilt of the head told me, “You look great. Besides, age is just a number” (I’ll get back to them when they’re approaching sixty to find out if they’ve changed their opinion).

They believed they were offering support but I didn’t feel heard. Their words invalidated my complicated relationship with aging and I felt myself becoming invisible.

And then, one day after class, a student said to me, “You’re right – turning sixty is a big deal.” The moment those words landed in my heart I reclaimed my focus and returned to being sharp edged and filled with color. 

Someone listened not just to the words coming out of my mouth but the meaning behind those words. Someone heard me and I was no longer alone. It was time to celebrate.

Hearing is easy. Listening? Not so much. How often do we formulate a response before the person with whom we’re engaged in conversation has completed their thought? How often do we try to finish someone else’s sentence? How often do we interrupt?

I’m guilty of all three more often than not. What about you?

Listening can be part of our daily practice. We hear in a rush. When we listen we are mindful. 

Give this a try. Find a friend and a timer. Pour a cup of tea. And then choose someone to go first, set the timer for five minutes and begin. One person will talk about anything or nothing, the other will listen. No questions, no comments, no chatter in the mind. Just pure listening. When the five minutes are over, switch roles and practice again.

2 thoughts on “Are You Listening?

  1. kathy witkowsky

    Oh Mimm: I LOVE this! I’m a huge fan of co-listening, which was a big part of my teacher training with Don and Amba Stapleton, and I have shared it many times at retreats, where people say it was a revelation. Once people get used to getting or giving the floor for five or 10 minutes, then you can have the listener do a “say-back”–no judgment, just a reflection of what they heard and witnessed. It is a super powerful practice; Don and Amba say it’s the reason they’re still married! It has also helped me to create healthy relationships with my husband and close friends. Because really, in the end, most of us don’t want advice or judgment; we just want to be witnessed. By ourselves and others. Carry on!


    • Thanks! Yes, Ben and I practice this from time to time ourselves. And we’ve done reflective listening, too. Such a powerful practice.


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