Shut Up and Listen!

My one-word theme for 2015 is LISTEN

Listen and notice what happens when I keep quiet…

Adopting this action for an entire year is going to be especially tough for me and I know I’ll probably fail on some days, but I’m ready to listen, with my ears, my brain, and my heart.

listenAnyone who knows me knows that I love to talk. Talk, talk talk is what I’m all about, so why would I take on this challenging state for an entire year? Well I recently made an important discovery: whenever I’m talking, I can’t hear anyone but myself and frankly, I already know what I have to say. I’ve been recycling it for ages now.

This realization came in a moment of utter frustration.

Now, there’s one person who likes to talk as much, if not more than me, my ballroom dance coach. Whenever we would get together for a lesson, we’d both be talking as much as we were dancing. And suddenly, about a month ago, it seemed we were talking more than we were dancing and I began to feel frustrated with all the chit-chat.

I tried to explain (more talk) what I wanted to work on, but that didn’t get us anywhere. The more I focused on trying to change the pattern, the worse it got and the more frustrated I felt. I left one day feeling upset. Driving home I thought, you’re fighting a losing battle.

And then things in the car got quiet.

What if…, I thought, I just shut up? What would happen if I didn’t say anything?

I had to try it. Nothing else was working. I thought briefly about the old saying, that you can’t expect a different result using the same strategy; you have to try something totally and completely new. That’s what I intended to do.

The first time I began my dance practice without a voice, it was tough. I think my instructor thought I was mad or that something was wrong, but I didn’t give up, I just smiled and held my tongue. Things began normally, after a brief warm-up, he talked for a while about what he felt and then since he wasn’t getting feedback, he showed me what he was talking about by dancing it. I nodded and took in his words. I thought more about what he was saying and how that could translate into what I was (or wasn’t) doing. I began to really tune into his wisdom and use it more.

With each passing lesson, I allowed myself only a few choice words, “yes,” “no” and “can you show me again?” I found over the course of a few weeks that my teacher was now talking less too, saving his words for only the things that were relevant to what was happening between us. We danced more and as we did, the teaching began to come more through the physical, rather than the cerebral. It is what I had wanted all along, but couldn’t find the words to say it. And that’s the point exactly, sometimes words aren’t what is really needed to communicate what we want or need.

What I’ve come to realize already is that listening is a funny thing. You would think it doesn’t take any effort at all, that it’s a passive occurrence, but on the contrary, to really listen requires great effort. First, you have to resist the temptation to respond, checking yourself when the desire to talk back comes up. And then, once you’ve tied your tongue, you have to open your mind to what is being said, receive it (as a gift) and then somehow, some way, use it.

So if you see me hanging around and I seem sort of quiet, don’t worry, everything’s ok; actually, better than ok.

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