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)

Only protecting my own

Written by Suraj Shah.

When trouble’s brewing in your neighbourhood, what’s the first thing you do?

Mayhem has kicked off in London and across the UK. Riots are taking place, shops are being looted, buildings are set alight and innocent people are getting hurt.

Business owners have suffered great financial loss, through damage done to their property, goods stolen and loss of trade.

Families, the elderly and the vulnerable are terrified about the damage done in the world around them. They are scared about the harm that may come to them and those close to them.

Communities are shocked that their own locals are doing so much damage to their neighbourhood.

Reports say it’s the poor fighting against the rich. I say it’s the deluded battling with themselves.

As news reports roll though announcing trouble that has erupted, with security forces deployed, and total confusion about the cause of the riots, there is immediately one question on everybody’s mind:

“How will this affect me?”

Will I be in any danger? Will my family be ok? Will my friends stay safe? Is my house ok? Is my shop ok? Can I still get home from work or will the roads be blocked off?

We contact our wives and husbands and children and parents. We check with our neighbours that our homes and possessions are ok. We frantically scour the news reports to see how widespread the riots are, and whether we or our loved ones are likely to be affected.

Less thought is given to all the people suffering due to the riots – the victims and indeed the rioters themselves.

We tend only to focus on looking out for and protecting our own – those we consider as “me” and “mine”.

Looking beyond ourselves

However, once we are satisfied that we are ok and our own people and possessions are ok, then, and only then do we give consideration to how others in the community are, and whether they or those important to them have been affected in some way. Or do we…?

Hiding from the truth

The truth is that we tend not to care much about those people and things that we don’t have a strong relationship with. We hide behind fake sentiments and insensitive jokes. We try to create disconnection and escape from the graveness of the situation. We busy ourselves in our work and mundane worldly matters, hoping that we are not affected by the situation in any way.

This is real

There’s no hiding from it. This is real. What’s happening in the world around us is real. It’s on our doorstep, and we must face it with eyes open wide. Yes, we need to protect our family and those who depend on us. Yes, we also need to care for the well being of our neighbours and those in our communities. At the end of the day, we need to care for one another, with true friendship, for everyone.

Forgiveness settles anger

Friendship, true friendship, cultivates a sense of care for all living beings. It reduces the worry about our own possessions and relationships, and enhances care for everyone and all things, all at once.

Friendship, true friendship, cultivates forgiveness. It brings downs our egos and expectations, and encourages more acceptance and understanding. It doesn’t allow for even a glimpse of spite, malice or revenge.  It wipes out anger and replaces it with peace.

By enhancing friendship with all those in the world around you, it helps you develop understanding, trust and a deeper connection with your local and global community.

How to enhance the quality of friendship

Enhancing friendship means we:

  1. Smile at everyone we meet, rather than ignore anyone who is looking for connection.
  2. Appreciate the qualities of those we come across rather than focus on their faults.
  3. Care for those who are facing difficulties, rather than insult them with “I told you so”.
  4. Adjust to other people’s actions rather than demand our way all the time.
  5. Listen intently to what is being said, rather than carry out our own internal chatter.
  6. Communicate words of positive encouragement rather than contribute to fault-finding.
  7. Immerse in the conversation and make them feel special, rather that it being all about “me, me, me”.

Enhancing friendship is more important now than it has ever been before.

What do you do to cultivate friendship within yourself?

(Photo courtesy of Andy Armstrong)