Things I Never Expected from Yoga – No. 4…

That it would teach me about Listening…

I recently went to see a friend’s Mum in hospital who has been very poorly.  I have known her practically all my life and despite numerous health troubles over the years she has remained one of the most kind-hearted, positive and brilliantly witty people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.  I view her as a being a bit like a second Mum.   Having found out she’d been admitted to hospital I knew I wanted to pop in and see her.  I had in mind that I would probably only be there for about half an hour or so (and it was a weekend and I had stuff to do etc etc…).  As it turned out I didn’t leave until nearly two hours later, just as my friend (her daughter) arrived.

To explain, on top of her other health issues my friend’s Mum has been hard of hearing for a number of years so conversations can be less than straightforward not to mention, at times, amusing in the nicest possible way.  Anyhow, I was sitting by her bed and she was having more difficulty hearing me than usual.  So in the end I stopped talking and just listened. 

Then I really Listened.

And the more she talked, I noticed something which I think is pretty significant.  The way that she was communicating changed.   And she went from sounding incredibly down to laughing and joking and being more like the person I’ve always known.  Even her facial expressions completely changed.  And in that couple of hours I had barely said a word.  In fact, I hadn’t even noticed the time passing.

When I got home I thought about this.  What had happened?  What had changed way the she was communicating so dramatically?  I think it might be because she could feel that she was actually being Listened to.  It reminded me of something I heard from an interviewee via The Dialogue Project.  This interviewee had expressed that he wasn’t very articulate but when the interviewer commented that ‘articulate’ was exactly what he was being, the interviewee paused for while then responded:

“I’m being articulate in a way that I couldn’t be if I wasn’t really being listened to.”

What does all this have to do with yoga?  Well, for me this is about Being Present. This experience with my friend’s Mum showed me that Being Present is the difference between listening and Listening.

Not fully Being Present when someone is talking to me – looking over their shoulder, my mind racing ahead to something I need to later – is something that I know I am all too often guilty of.  I also know that I am not alone in this because when someone gives me their full attention and is truly Listening to me I really notice this generous act.  I’m a pretty quiet person and I’ve always tended to think of myself as not being much of a talker, not that articulate – but that’s not entirely true.  Like my friend’s Mum and the man from The Dialogue Project, the way I communicate seems to change when I can feel that I am being Listened to.  It seems so obvious yet it’s something that has only just dawned on me and I feel this is something that has come to me via my yoga practice.

This theme of Listening seems to be coming up in front of me a lot lately.  Just today I read article in OM Yoga Magazine where Sheila Steptoe writes that truly Listening is:

“…one of the most beautiful gifts you can give to others and to your self.” 

Sheila also writes:

“Children need to be heard especially if they have worries, but too often the moment passes us by.  Are you really always too busy doing other things?  What other things are really that important?

Adults too are often affected when no one will truly listen to them.  It can take a huge amount of courage sometimes for people to share something important if they want your advice or even just to pass comment on something that may have happened to them.”

That all makes sense to me because on some level, isn’t that what we all want?  To be Listened to.  To be acknowledged. To be Heard. 

At the next available opportunity I went back to the hospital and I Listened some more.  I’m so very glad that I did.


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