One day at Barnes and Noble, I happened to sit by two older women having a conversation about life. I came in the middle of their conversation so I wasn’t exactly sure what they were discussing. My initial thought was; “will they ever shut up, I want to get some work done before I leave and there’s nowhere else to sit.” For some reason that day I decided to surrender. I surrendered my frustration–willingly caved, and gave into something that I had no control over. What I learned was, these women were discussing how their life has changed because they remained positive. And how they found inner peace and healing through illness and life’s hardships. They both ended the conversation by saying “you have empowered my day.” And I couldn’t help but think that they empowered mine.
We will never know what we can learn unless we truly surrender to listening when people share their story. Often times we listen to respond not to hear. Meaning, we give people the space to share but we listen to react not to learn, not to take in the lesson, and not to show compassion. The art of listening is a skill. Listening entails engaging with the person, staying focused, and being empathetic towards their needs. These qualities are not easy for most of us, they take a lot of practice and the practice for these qualities takes inner work. Inner work are the tools and resources that we use to help us become better versions of ourselves.
One tool we can use to address our own inner work is, mindfulness. About ten years ago I started meditating on a daily basis, and over time I started to notice changes in how I felt on the inside, how I handled challenges, and my overall outlook on life in general was a lot more positive. I’m not a mediation Guru and sometimes I’m not consistent, but the benefits of my practice are still alive within me. I know that when I get upset I can handle the situation differently because of my practice, I know when life doesn’t go as planned that it’s part of the process, I know that even if I’m not happy in my current situation it means that this is where I’m supposed to be at the moment, and there is a lesson to be learned. In essence, mindfulness has given me the ability to surrender in so many areas of my life. It created a safe space for me internally so I can create space for those around me.
My boss says when you share your story it’s no longer your own. I never really understood what that meant but now the message is clear. She means that the stories we hear will likely be told to many others, the stories we hear will likely be interpreted in many different ways for many different people, the stories we hear will likely be the segue used to tell how someone’s life has completely changed. The stories we hear are powerful. The stories we hear are educational. They teach us lessons. So we must surrender to listening, you never know what the universe is trying to tell you through stories.
I want to circle back to the beginning of this story as an example. The conversation between two strangers has allowed me to not only create this story for you but forced me to be mindful of my reaction when I’m in a situation where I don’t have much control. When I sat down next to them my initial thought was “shut up, I have work to do.” But after giving in to what I couldn’t control I learned lessons; lessons that I’m sharing with you today. Sometimes when we have no control it’s created space for us to surrender— just willingly cave and give in.
What are your listening skills like? ESPECIALLY when you’re upset. Let’s Chat!