My daughter who is distraught over the results of the US elections, as most whom I know are, said to me,"mom I feel devastated. Brexit and now this? I am frightened as I go over scenarios in my mind of what's yet to unfold". Normal reaction. I said to her "you have to stop thinking like an MBA and be present without interpretation. You will then act when needed, and in the most unselfish ways". I harked back to a time when I had an opinion about everything and wanted above all to be heard. Slowly I realized that most people were like me just talking at each other. It was a contest of who had the most clever things to say. No one was actually listening or processing since we were all thinking about what to say next and how to outsmart the next person. The election campaign we saw is a case in point. The contestants are not wholly to blame. We have come to respect rhetoric and sound bytes, fuelled by our media's quest for ratings. We do not value authenticity. We want posturing, pretence and power talk.
A few years ago, I read somewhere about the zen art of listening and decided to practice it. Every time I had an impulse I stopped and gave myself the cue to listen instead. Wow what a difference it made. The ego had been quietened. The speaker had my attention. I waited to offer my thoughts if they added value or were solicited. Miraculously I felt heard and found that I was effective. I realize now that represents a microcosm of how the wise among us live. They do not want to grasp or possess anything. They have no fear of losing anything - as life flows through them. Note this does not mean they don't change things. Their very presence in a non ego state does. But they wait for life to unfold, always attentive and observant. They wait for the right moment, to express a thought, write a piece, argue a point. They do not react violently from a place of judgement but listen attentively and remain curiously engaged without self interest. This sounds like an easy thing to do - but is actually excruciating for the uninitiated and unpractised. Especially under present circumstances. I find myself reacting from deep conditioning and habit patterns. I am fuelling my hate with assumptions and judgement that my limited faculties conjure up. I have to stop reacting and respond from a place of silence and intuition, while not letting the behaviour of others destroy my inner peace (Dalai Lama). It is time for a shift change. Mind you this does not mean remaining complacent and passive. But it also does not mean being aggressive and opinionated. It means being still and acting with grace towards higher goals in unselfish ways. That is my advice to my daughter as well!