Tag Archives: active listening

Making Connections

A few years ago, my sweetheart and I were sitting by an ambitious little river in Northern Thailand watching oxen grazing on the opposite bank. Hesitantly, a thirsty calf strayed to the lip of the river. In the same moment, with a series of wildly joyous yips, a golden retriever threw itself into the currents.

Hastily, the calf retreated, legs buckling like soft green bamboo. Its firm but encouraging mother nuzzled it back to the river. It slid first one hoof, then the other, into the water and began to drink. The patient mother stood by her calf’s side until it had finished. Meanwhile, the retriever seemed to watch with quiet pride. We were strangely and powerfully moved by this sweet and simple scenario. Such is the unspoken mood of the town we couldn’t leave. It is the kind of place that you could drive right through if you weren’t paying attention.

This is a town that refuses to put on makeup. It whispers and bellows and laughs and chatters. It’s an amblin’ town, not efforting to make anything happen. Because of that, things do. It hasn’t outgrown its sense of community. Connections still happen, and they don’t have anything to do with business networking.

One morning a 6-week-old puppy, Vodka (so named because his person owns a bar), was hit by a truck. Everyone within earshot stopped to see if they could help. Two locals who practice Reiki (Ray-KEE) a form of energy work used for healing, scooped the squealing puppy into their arms and started giving him this channeled energy of universal love. After a couple of hours, Vodka began to squirm so they put him down. He danced off on four fat legs, whirligigging his tail in gratitude.

Certainly, the energy work helped. However, what was most striking was the obvious fact that Vodka was securely wrapped in a blanket of love and care by everyone involved. He knew it, they knew it, and a small but significant miracle occurred as a result. When we left town several days later, he was still being tended to by the community—and was frisking around the streets.

When was the last time that you slowed down long enough to ask someone “How are you, really?” and mean it? Connecting can be cool– really, really cool. It just takes a little courage and initiative. Like the young calf, if you’re thirsty for true connection, be willing to get your feet wet. And If you happen to fall in, a helping hand will pull you back to shore.

Conscious Listening is Active Loving

I admit it, I jump to conclusions. I overlook details. Sometimes I move too quickly. This is the shadow side of my Sagittarian nature, constantly restless, exploratory, on the road to the next adventure. Admittedly, this can have some gypsy magic to it…and it can also drive people nuts.

Listening is a skill associated with the planet Mercury. Paying attention to the details is yet another Mercury function. When we listen, we show that we care, that we have interest in and respect for what others are saying. This demonstrates that we’re truly paying attention.

Most of us have probably had an ultimately frustrating experience like this: You’re sharing a story with a friend that’s important to you. They appear to be paying attention and listening. But when you finish, they look at you blankly. It seems as if they’ve listened, but have actually spaced out instead. Their vacant gaze says it all, or their haste to change the subject. If you’re checking out someone as serious love material, would that response be a turn-on? Not!

Conscious listening requires concentration and discipline. There are a million distractions from sun-up to sun-down. At one point I realized that I couldn’t multi-task anymore. The phone conversations that I used to be able to have while checking email, paying bills or even watering the plants are no longer possible. I wasn’t being fully present. This wasn’t just Sagittarian scatteredness, but the old, bad belief that the person on the other end of the phone wouldn’t notice. When I’d hang up, I wouldn’t be satisfied. The connection hadn’t really been made.

Don’t forget, we’re part animal. Animals know instinctively how to be present. That instinctive part of us tells us if we’re being listened to or not. So even if you find yourself on the receiving end of a conversation with someone who is about as interesting as dirt to you, make their day–for a minute or two, genuinely listen. Ask questions. Take in their answers. There was probably a time in your life when someone felt exactly the same way about you…and perhaps their kindness, their ability to listen, made all of the difference.

The more that we’re heard, the more that we feel connected…to ourselves and others. I know a wonderful man who usually considers himself invisible and unimportant. A group of friends gathered together to celebrate his 60th birthday with a surprise party. He arrived at his apartment that night, arms full of groceries for one, when the lights went on and everyone yelled, “Surprise!”

Here’s the topper: for gifts, each friend had decided to share a memory of why this man was so special to them. Mercury is the storyteller and, as the birthday celebrant listened, he both wept and laughed. He felt seen and acknowledged. Since that birthday, he’s come out of his shell. A woman too shy to approach him before the party was one of the friends who shared. Now they’re together.

So make a difference. Listen. Listen with love. You just might learn something yourself.

Posted By Joyce Van Horn on Wed Oct 7 19:09:21