“So 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.”
– Jiddu Krishnamurti
One day when my daughter was about 7, a teacher asked her what work her mum did. She explained that I helped people live happier lives by teaching them to live in the now; not to worry about the past or the future. I had never described my work like that but somehow she had picked up the essence and found her own way to articulate it.
Fast forward a few years and given that they are now cynical teens, my children are more likely to tell you that I teach people some hippy cr*p!
So, it was with no small surprise and delight that one evening one of them came in and urgently wanted to speak with me. “I thought I understood what you talk about before, but I really didn’t. I found out what it means to be in the moment, in the Now. I was walking in the fields, it was pouring with rain, I was soaked through and suddenly there was only Now. No past, no future, no me, just love and joy……and it was beautiful.” It was deeply moving to witness such awe.
Moments like this can be rare or common in a lifetime. Virtually everyone I talk to can remember such an experience. A moment when everything was perfect or sublimely peaceful, perhaps a sense of being at one with the universe or overwhelmed by gratitude for life.
It is what happens when we fall into that place within us which is uncontaminated by our busy personal thinking; when we fall back into the pure awareness beyond our individual persona. We become fully present.
It is tempting sometimes to chase such moments, to recreate them. We sometimes mistakenly attribute them to the beautiful place we are in, the people we were with or the technique we were doing. Yet we do not experience these moments through doing. Nothing can take us there. We are already there. We are always in the Now.
It just doesn’t often feel like that because it gets obscured by our human thought system. Memories of the past come to mind and we try to predict the future thus contaminating our experience of the present moment. We can be trapped into thinking that the Now is simply a point in time between the past and the future but Now is infinite and eternal. We can also be trapped into thinking of the Now as what happens in the moment but the infinite Now is the space in which everything happens. All life is here and only here.
And when we touch the infinite Now we realise that life is sacred and unfathomable……
And at this point the teens glaze over or roll their eyes in their heads! Just mum doing her hippy thing again!
Given that it is so common for children to be switched off by anything remotely of interest to their parents, many people ask me about how we can help our children understand the Principles. But what I have discovered since learning about the Principles is that the less I try to “teach” them the better. With every passing year I truly witness more and more of their own resilience and innate wellbeing. Of course, that’s the case. We are all the same and all have access to the same wisdom and resilience – even teenagers. But how often do we see it in our children when they are upset or refusing to do something we consider essential or at least sensible?
Over the years I have learned to listen differently to them. I listen without trying to fix them or make them feel better. I listen for where their wisdom is showing up, so I can reflect it back to them and help them to trust themselves. I listen for ideas to guide them to their own solutions. Sometimes I listen really well, other times not so well and they know the difference. My ability to listen is directly affected by the distracting thoughts in my head and how much attention I pay those thoughts. To listen deeply to someone else I must stop listening to myself!
I am deeply grateful for having learned to disregard the thoughts in my head to be better able to listen to others. The less I engage with my personal thinking, the more space there is to listen and the more present I am. If I had acted on the thoughts in my head as my teen stood dripping water on the hall floor, I might well have been bemoaning the mess or the fact they hadn’t taken a coat. The opportunity to listen to the experience might well have been lost to a muttered exchange or a slammed door.
By deeply listening, a ripple effect takes place and there seems less need to teach anything at all. Taking responsibility for my own thoughts and becoming more present leaves so much more space for wisdom to emerge in myself and others.
I love what Eckhart Tolle says:
“You become a teacher the moment you meet someone in stillness”.
Noticing when we are not really listening is enough to bring us back to stillness and presence, allowing us to witness the true beauty of life.
Where in your life might you not be listening? What are you missing as a result? I’ll leave you to reflect on that one until next time….