Texting is fun, emailing is great but I find the best skill I can practice is one that is not electronic: listening.
Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing, according to Rachael Naomi Remen, a pioneer in the mind/body holistic health movement and author of Kitchen Table Wisdom. Remen writes that it is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to effect the most profound changes in the people around us.
Listening to another person is not just about hearing the words that someone is saying to me.
I am hearing their words but I am also making eye contact with the other person, if they are physically with me, and I’m noticing how the words are being given to me. If I’m not sure of what the person is really saying, I try to slow down the conversation and give their words back to them in a different way so they can tell me whether I am understanding their thoughts.
These day we have so many electronic devices that can be easily and quickly used to reach out to each other but old fashioned face-to-face listening beats all of them every time.
Listening can create a zone of trust for those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one or experiencing a life crisis. They are coming to you and trusting you with their inner most thoughts and emotions, their confusion and heartbreak, and hoping that you will accept their vulnerability, empathize with what is happening to them and treat it kindly.
They are literally pouring their hearts out to you and in their own way saying: here is my human condition.
So while each of us faces — at one time or another — a time of trouble or darkness, we can be listeners to those who need us and for those we care about and perhaps in the giving of our time we can also give back the spirit of understanding.