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December 30, 2005


In January 2005, we started the with a few individuals gathering to reflect on what issues affect our lives and look at it from a spiritual perspective. Over the months, there have been a few significant shifts:

Participants: individuals became couples and couples became entire families. The last session we had four families, about 20 people from age 6 to age 70!

Consistency: As we progressed from January, a core group of people was present for almost all of the sessions throughout the year. It has created a new space of consciousness that is palpable, it is as if we have created a garage of reflective space that has all kinds of instruments, workbench, manuals, oils, paints etc. Every time we enter this space, we can roll our sleeves and get on to work on our mind and heart and consciousness.

Questions: Instead of talking about abstract spiritual concepts, throughout the year, we have engaged with real, personal questions that can bring a significant difference to the way we live. These questions and the process of inquiry are precious. Though it sounds strange, we need to rejoice at the number of questions we have at the end of the year than the number of answers we have. As one participant quoted Jiddu Krishnamoorthy, �Raise the question, it has the answer�

We thank every person who has participated in these sessions and by freely sharing one�s problems, questions and insights, has helped create this space, this community.

Now the notes from the last session:

During the check-in, the theme that emerged was an inquiry into what affects communication (within oneself and with others) and how that communication can affect oneself and others.

To begin with, Prasad brought everyone�s attention to listening.

What is listening? How well do we listen? What affects our listening?

Anshul, one of the kids who attended the session, said that usually when he listens, he is already thinking about what he is going to say next. That he said affects his ability to fully listen to what the other person is saying. He said that true listening could happen only if we put our heart into the act of listening and do it without thinking (oh boy!)

Anshul�s little sister said that when she was listening she got bored by the adult-talk and started day dreaming about something else. Immediately Prasad said that may be she could be the monitor of this session and call out if it gets boring. He said that kids being kids, they do not have the same barriers in calling out the truths like adults (remember, it is a kid who called out that the Emperor is naked).

Vijay said that the principle �do one thing at a time� helps one to listen better.

Dinesh said that sometimes it helps to create a delay between listening and our response to it. He said that �sleeping over� what we listened to helps us not to jump at conclusions and respond better.

Prasad said that sleeping over is powerful because in that period, we benefit from the inputs and processing of our unconscious mind that is not available when we are awake.

Vijay pointed out that while sleeping over is good, it would really help only after one has explored all dimensions of an issue otherwise we might be sleeping over inadequate information.

Jags said that one�s quality of listening is high if one creates a space of �I don�t know� before listening. Any previous knowledge gets in the way of listening.

Prasad said that �I don�t know� is an attitude. It is not absence of previous knowledge about something. It is one�s willingness to say, �May be the other person is right� and �What if the other person is right� and then listen without pre-judging the other person.

To better explain what he means by attitude Prasad quoted a story from a Wayne Dyer program. A couple was married for 52 years and one day the husband passed away. The old lady�s family was making arrangements to send her to an old-age home. When the room in which the old lay would be staying was described to her, she said, �Ah, I am excited, I can�t wait to live in that room!� When people where surprised how she could be excited without ever having seen her room, she said, �What has that got to do with me being excited?� What she meant, Prasad said, was that she chose an attitude to be happy in that room regardless of the presence or absence of anything that is inherently exciting about that room.

Likewise, Prasad said that we could choose an �I don�t know� attitude before listening. Instead, he said that we are always ready with answers. If we think we already know, then there is no learning.

Anshul asked how is attitude connected with listening.

Prasad challenged Anshul himself to answer the question. He said that a person who asks a question also has an inkling of the answer, and with other�s help he can explore and articulate it.

Dinesh helped by asking Anshu how does he listen to someone who he is thinks is smarter than himself.

Anshul said that when he is in front of someone who he thinks is smarter than himself, he thinks of ways to be more smart and does not really listen to that person. And when he is in front of someone who he thinks is less smart, he doesn�t want to give importance to that person and hence does not listen carefully.

So, Prasad, asked Anshul, �What is the connection between attitude and listening?�

Anshul said that what he thinks of someone affects his ability to listen and hence, even if he knows who the other person is or what the other person is talking about, saying to oneself that he doesn�t know what the other person is talking about can help him listen better.

Manju said that she has been quite anxious to move into her newly remodeled home. But the delays have affected her sleep and she keeps thinking about whether flush works or the something else works. She asked how could she deal with the anxiety-inducing communication that is happening within her.

Prasad talked about how all of us have self-critical and self-defeating communication within ourselves many times. These communications, he said can become self perpetuating and resulting in the very thing that we are afraid of. For example, he said that a person who observes a few unfortunate incidents that happen to him and starts thinking of himself as �unlucky� then starts to tell himself he is unlucky before he does anything and thereby creates the conditions to fail and hence finds himself to be unlucky.

He said that if we can notice the pattern of what we repeat to ourselves in various circumstances, we can become aware of our self-communication and make a connection between that and what we end of doing in our lives. The very awareness helps us suspend listening to our autopilot thoughts and create space for thinking and acting in the persent.

He gave an example of a support engineer in a company becoming a developer. The experience of having been a support engineer, always fixing problems in the short term, if carried forward to being a developer will be a disaster. Being a developer requires one to get away from the fixing attitude and develop a �let�s explore this� attitude. So, he said, that the former support engineer, when he becomes aware of his internal communication which is asking him to come to quick conclusions and fixes, he can be free from that attitude and start exploring more and create a new product.

Prasad then conducted a little experiment to bring out attention to how the way we listen to someone can affect the ability of the speaker to communicate effectively.

He asked three people to volunteer and asked them to go out of the room and think of a story. Meanwhile, he asked people in the room to adopt three ways of listening and use one way for each person who will come in to tell the story. The first one was �everyday listening� which is to listen normally as we do at home and work with the usual multitasking. The second way is �airplane listening� which is the way we listen to the air hostess when she is demonstrating how to buckle the seat belt and how to put on the oxygen mask etc, and the third way is to listen like we would if the airplane is in trouble and our life depends on listening clearly to the instructions.
The three volunteers were called one at a time and the group was listening to each person in one of the ways described above.

Each volunteer was asked to tell a story exactly for 60 seconds. After everyone told their stories, they were asked how did they feel the group listened to them. Without knowing the attitude with which the group listened to him or her, each person expressed how he or she felt and it exactly matched the group�s listening style!

So, Prasad said, it takes less than 60 seconds for a speaker to �pick up� on how other people are listening and it has a major effect on the speaker�s effectiveness in communication.

The question everyone can take home and be engaged with is, �What is the attitude with which I am listening right now?�

Thanks again for making this a great year and wish you a very happy 2006!

Posted by Ragu at December 30, 2005 12:56 PM

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