Really, Really Listening (“We” Part 2)


So, how about REALLY listening to those around you?  Once you master that, then maybe you can go out and fix the world beyond. I cannot tell you how many times I have committed to doing this…to really listening.  I would compare this effort to speeding, when I was younger.  NOTE:  Now, I regularly drive about 5-7 MPH over the speed limit.  I do not do this for safety or because I think that the speed limits are correct.  It is just not worth it to me to get a ticket AND have my time wasted by a stop.  Anyway, back in the day I would speed EVERYWHERE, then I would get a ticket and drive around at speed limit-speeds for 6 months.  Eventually, my probation would expire and my carefulness would wear off.  Then, I would speed again.

This is a lot like how I listen in my life.  I am ALWAYS preoccupied with something (with a lot of things, actually).  My child, my wife, or a coworker will be talking to me and I suddenly realize that I was not listening.  Even worse, the talker will realize it and then ask, “Are you listening to me?”  BUSTED!  Whether I realize it or I am busted by the speaker, this is like getting that speeding ticket.  It is time to slow down and really listen.  But how do I do that?  My favorite way to do that is called Active Listening.

This is not active listening!

This is not active listening!

There are many way to actively listen, but here’s my technique:

  1. Stop what you are doing (no typing, watching TV, texting, writing, etc.).
  2. Turn and look at the speaker (as long as you are with the speaker).
  3. Really, really try to comprehend; stop thinking of other things.
  4. Do not formulate rebuttals in you mind.  Be open to what you hear.
  5. When there is a pause, repeat what the speaker is saying in your mind.
  6. When the message has been delivered, then you can paraphrase what the speaker has said to you:  “So let me see, what you are saying is…”
  7. Ask questions at opportune times, if you do not understand:  “One moment, did you mean that…?”
  8. Take the time afterward to reflect on what someone has told you.  If you are unclear, follow up with them.  This shows that you took the time to receive the message and have thought it through.

This is just one way to be virtuous with your “we.”  Your interactions with those closest to you define who you are.  If I am not listening to them, then I am not a good listener, and that does not honor those closest to me who are trying to communicate with me.


Anchor #3: Patience


“Think of this doctrine – That reasoning beings were created for one another’s sake; That to be patient is a branch of justice; and that we often sin without intending it.”–Marcus Aurelius

“My terrors should be quieted, my irritations soothed, my illusions shaken off, my indulgences checked, my greed rebuked.  And which of these cures can be brought about in a hurry?”–Seneca

Where can I find Patience?

The value of patience is best measured when I find out what happens when I don’t have it.  Things take time, and often they will not go my way.  When I am impatient, I create a tension within myself without anyone else’s help.  In another words, my impatience makes things worse.  This creates anger and other negative emotions, which in turn, impedes my ability to see things clearly.  …to think rationally …to be happy.

I can be impatient with many things.  Here are a few of them:

  • Progress of my career
  • My child’s development (in sports, school, maturity, etc.)
  • My parents’ stories
  • The agent at the help desk
  • The [lack of] performance of my computer
  • My house’s state of clutter or cleanliness
  • Someone else’s listening skills
  • My own listening skills

Regardless of what I am impatient of, I can refill my patience reservoir in this way.  Start by gently breathing in and out.  When I breathe in, I think “breathing in,” when I breathe out, I think “breathing out.”  Now, after a few moments of slowing down and being aware of the breath, I can now think “patience” with each breath.  Really think about the meaning, maybe apply it to each of those situations above.  At the beginning of the day, I say “I will have patience with…”  At the end of the day, I can ask, “Did I have patience with…?”  Once I am satisfied, that my patience reservoir is full, I can move on with my day.

This activity requires quite a bit of…

How is your patience doing today?  Are there better ways to nurture patience?

7 Meditation Anchors


Am I being virtuous?  Am I focusing on what is important?  What follows are what I call my Seven Meditation Anchors.  During times of relaxation (before bed, with morning coffee, or even when I think I need to relax–e.g. heavy traffic or when family has driven me to the limit).  I use these 7 anchors to help me come back to what is important.  Sometimes I focus on one of them, other times I meditate on each in turn.  I rarely meditate for longer than 15 minutes.

Thanks, Siddhartha!

For those familiar with Zen/Buddhism, four of these, Compassion, Love, Joy, Equanimity will have a vaguely familiar look…the Four Sublime States are a cornerstone of my anchors.  They are what I call the spiritual/emotional anchors.  They speak to the cerebellum, the medulla, the spiritual/ancestral (limbic and reptillian) brain.

The remaining three, Understanding, Patience, and Persistence, I consider rational anchors.   They speak to the cerebrum (Neocortex), or thinking brain. They elicit cause and effect, and help with the “why’s” of what to focus on.

So, here they are with a short description for each.  Don’t worry, I will expand upon each in the upcoming days.  (Rationals are blue, Spirituals are green)

  • Compassion – is to feel the suffering of others.
  • Understanding – is to put yourself into another’s mind, or into a situation and really think about what you would do
  • Patience – is to understand that things take time, despite large amounts of effort
  • Persistence – if things take time, then great effort is required over and over and over…
  • Joy – is not just joy, but sympathetic joy.  This is to revel in the good fortune of others…the opposite of envy
  • Equanimity – is the ability to see things as they are, from a distance, to be the water and not the waves (see Passionate Equanimity)
  • Love – as in Lovingkindness; this is love without possessing, without judging, without expecting it in return, it is to love as if a god

Note:  You may be wondering why these are listed in this particular order.  It’s a simple practical decision for me:  it’s because in this order, they spell CUPP-JEL, which I can remember easily.  None is more important than another, in my opinion (see last paragraph of my credentials here).  You might choose to start with the “rationals” and finish with the “spirituals,” or vice versa (that would spell UPPJELC). For all I care, use PLUC-JEP.