Allowing for silence

Written by Suraj Shah.

Music is made up of notes and pauses. In fact, in music, the notes are merely a frame for silence.

Without the gaps, all the notes would clump together and all we would hear is noise.

What is silence?

In music, silence is the gap between the notes. In conversations, silence is the space between the words. It’s in that space that wisdom develops.

In Atmasiddhi, the 142 verse masterpiece composed by self-realised poet Shrimad Rajchandra, he writes:

Kar vichaar toh paam // contemplate to realise

Such a powerful statement, yet how often do allow ourselves to get into the gaps of our mind’s constant monologue.

How often do we take time to retreat from the unending noise of the outer world?

How can we create space for contemplation, for introspection, to allow for the emergence of wisdom?

It starts in our day-to-day conversations.

Learning to listen

In our day-to-day interactions, we have so many opportunities to speak with people, to connect with others, to learn more about them, the world, and ourselves.

But in all of our interactions, how often do we really listen?

When a friend speaks, do we listen? Or are we disrespectfully constructing our reply in our heads as they speak?

How often do we take the time to pause after a friend has spoken, to truly absorb what has been said, to contemplate on it, and then to respond appropriately.

What’s the alternative?

  • Automatic robot-like reactions.
  • Thoughtless regurgitation of opinions.
  • Careless advice and ‘recommendations’.
  • Interfering and causing mayhem.

Listening to those who desperately need to be heard

All around us are people desperately waiting to be heard.

They are in our homes, our schools, our workplaces, our churches and temples.

They are in the local park, in the pub, in the line at the grocery store, or sitting at the next table in the cafe.

Everywhere you look, you will find people craving the need to be heard, to be understood, to be loved.

Just open your eyes, and open your heart, and you will find someone who desperately seeks to be listened to.

How to listen

Listening is easy.

Simply shut your mouth, focus on the person you are with, and calm your own mental chatter.

Easy, right?

Not so much.

But here are some tips that may help.

You’re truly listening when…

  • You let me be me.
  • You grasp my point, even when it contradicts your own perspective.
  • You remain calm and pay attention to what I say and don’t say.
  • You hold back your well intended desire to give me good advice.
  • You give me enough space to discover by myself what is going on and what to do.
  • You grant me the dignity to make my own decisions, even if you think they may be wrong.
  • You allow me to deal with the problem in my own way, rather than trying to take it away from me.
  • You are genuine and sincere.

The next person you meet deserves to be listened to. When paths cross, make the meeting fruitful.

(Photo courtesy of Minette Layne)

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