“There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.” ~ Rumi
She was in tears.
I wanted to tell her it would be okay, but I’d be lying. I’d usually chime in and offer my usual words of wisdom, but this time was different.
My sister had an unsettling moment with her boyfriend. I felt helpless, but understood that with matters of love, I couldn’t be the overprotective brother of yesteryear. I couldn’t heal her wounds or go after the ones that hurt her.
We were older now and both understood that heartaches still hurt just as much as the first, but we’re better equipped to deal with pain…perhaps even becoming numb to it.
I only had one weapon left in my arsenal to help. I listened to her. It was unnerving to realize that someone I admire could hurt my sister in this way.
She was sitting on her bed, and I on the floor. It was as if she was a guru and I was her disciple. She was reciting her despairing mantra and I gave her all my attention, as a pupil should.
I listened intently to each word as they poured from her heart. Her tears created waterfalls so deep that I fell into them and drowned in sorrow with her. I could feel chills as she draped a blanket over her shoulders.
I listened as her pain became mine and, for a brief moment in time and space, we were one, separated only by this illusory existence.
After she vented, I gave her a hug. As I walked out of her room, she said, “Thanks for the talk, bro.”
To which I replied, “You’re welcome, sis.”
I didn’t offer any advice during our conversation. I only said a few words, but by her calm disposition it was apparent she felt better. I learned something valuable that day.
Listening was a Lesson in Love.
I’ve read more books on spirituality, mindfulness, and philosophy than I can count. I’ve been to a 10 day silent meditation retreat, incorporated yoga into my life, and even started consuming a diet based on plants.
I’ve pretty much followed the mindfulness system, if there ever was one, but listening to my sister that day was a lesson that left a profound impact on me.
Jiddu Krishnamurti, the late philosopher said, “So when you’re listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening to not only the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.”
It took the trauma of another for me to realize how important listening is.
Six Benefits of Listening.
1. You don’t build empathy—you experience it.
Building takes time, but when you listen to someone, time ceases to exist, and you experience what they feel as if it was your own.
When you listen to another person with total attention, you’re able to have a glimpse into their life.
It has allowed me to see people for who they are, without the interference of judgment.
I shared in my sister’s pain. I had nothing to solve and neither did she. It was in that moment that I showed total love and sincerity.
2. You will be practicing presence actively.
When you listen with awareness, there is no thought and the mind is clear. Listening in this way takes tremendous effort because it means detaching ourselves from the narrative we have going on in our minds.
Actively listening to another means that we are devoting all our energy and effort into one person.
Time stopped for me and my sister that day. Nothing else in the world mattered. To share moments like this is nothing short of bliss.
3. You fully understand you can’t fix anyone.
I have always been the fixer for my family’s problems. Even though I gave advice, they did what they wanted to regardless of what I said.
I don’t give advice anymore. I have trust that others can find their own path. I would never rob or cripple anyone from the chance of figuring out life for themselves.
Surrendering is powerful because it takes the burden of fixing someone else’s issues off your shoulders. In turn, you have more energy to be a better listener.
When you let someone borrow your ear to vent, they are fixing themselves. Without knowing, you become a vehicle that takes some of their frustrations away.
It’s beautiful to know that we humans have this innate ability to help.
4. You will have more listeners.
Have you ever given money to a charity organization? As a result, have you ever received more than what you gave? This has been the case for me.
Listening is similar. When you invest yourself in the hard times of others, they want to be there for you as well.
It’s a good feeling to know that others care for you as much as you do for them.
5. You will lose the need to compare.
When we actively listen to another, we don’t use our previous knowledge as a basis of comparison.
Every situation is different and there is no magic solution for everything.
Listening silences comparison and makes peace with what is.
When we lose the need to compare, our aim is not to eradicate problems, but instead to walk side by side on the path of the person we are helping.
My path will never be the same as my sisters.
All I can do is hold her hand for a little while and have trust that she will begin to walk her path alone once more.
6. You lose the need to accept or disapprove.
I don’t choose the weather. Some days the sun might come out and other days it might not, but I don’t accept or disapprove of what the sun does.
The sun doesn’t care about my acceptance or disapproval, so why should I?
Instead, I radiate in its warmth. I bask in what is.
Listening is surrendering to the fact that you can’t help anyone. You can only be there for them as the sun is here for us.
It is a blessing to shine the light of our listening onto others; the solitary path of life can be dark and cold at times.
We need each other so we can persevere and walk this path in the manner in which it was meant—with joy.
Listening can be our loudest voice for it echoes in the heart.
Listen attentively with complete sincerity and love because this is giving what’s best in you to others.
Author: Anand Swamy
Editor: Travis May