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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Attentive listening: healing helpline

Online edition of the Daily News: Feature:

WHEN there is no one to talk to, rather, when there is no one who will listen to what you want to say, and you are troubled, desperation sets in. You lose hope and the will to live.

Recently, a group of young people in Japan died in a suicide pact. They had taken the extreme step as no one was willing to listen to what they had to say; to lend a ear to their anguish. An empathetic listener is hard to come by.

In despair, the dejected seek solace from someone, anyone on the Worldwide Web, on the street, just about anywhere and end up pouring their heart out to total strangers. All the while, family, friends and colleagues remain oblivious to the person's agony.

Many people reach a State of fragmentation, where each one is encased in a virtual cage. Isolated, with no one willing to listen to him, a desperate person develops low self-esteem.

Thich Nhat Hanh in Call Me By My True Names says: "I need you to listen to me; no one has listened to me, no one understands my suffering, including the ones who say they love me. The pain inside me is suffocating me. It is the TNT that makes up the bomb".

Today's ideology holds self-sufficiency and success in high esteem and ruthlessly trashes failure. It is important, therefore, to listen to others, particulary those in despair. Listening will help restore to them their sense of personal worth, and make them realise the intrinsic right to being.

When a person is talking, we tend to either pay no attention, or continually react internally to what is being said. Or else we insert our own views into the conversation. So even when listening to another, the listener tries to remain the centre of attention.

Instead, if one listened without worrying about what to say, one will hear what the other person wants you to know. And strangely, you will find that because you are listening differently and actively, you grow more effective as a communicator yourself. Silence becomes more potent than speech.

The stress of interaction vanishes, and it becomes evident that the person who will listen best will influence most. Effective listening can provide the much needed healing touch. Listening silently and fully, without judging, interpreting or interrupting means you are being hospitable and respectful to the one who is talking.

J. Krishnamurti said that when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it. For this, we should value the other more than we value ourselves.

It filters out both inner and outer distractions, so that we get the whole message. Empathetic listening is mindfulness, a genuine interest in the other's well-being.

Listening then becomes genuine spirituality, what the Bible refers to as one-anothering. Beginning with the simple advice of Jesus to "love one another" one-anothering includes serving one another, admonishing one another, accepting each other, bearing one another's burdens, and regarding each other as more important than oneself.

Attentive listening becomes the gateway to devotion, to a deeper spiritual life. Krishnamurti says: "Listen as if you were listening for the first time - like seeing the sunset, or the fact of your friend for the first time. Then you would learn, and thus learning, you would discover freedom for yourself". This kind of listening requires patience.

It needs a certain tenderness and simplicity of approach, a constant searching into oneself without condemnation or acceptance. To listen spiritually, we must slow down our minds and allow a divine curiosity to permeate us. It is true mediation. -

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

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