Listening with Empathy

Apparently we all like to talk about ourselves. I don’t know why it took me 60+ days (not consecutive!) of being quiet to become aware of this.

Yesterday I met with a friend after years. She is surfing through some serious vicissitudes right now. As our evening progressed, I realized my frustration with not getting to share about MY life as much as she did. It took effort to just be present, to just be a good listener, to spend three hours together and allow her to do most of the talking.

At some point I understood that that was my role last night – to be a good listener. Some of our life preferences are very different, but my role last night was to be there without judgement, with empathy. Not necessarily validating her experience with words, replies, and similar or counter examples from my own life …but… practicing acceptance, celebrating diversity, honoring experiences.

Listening with full-attention, without forming replies in our heads while the other person is still sharing takes a lot of concentration, attention, presence, awareness, will power, and determination. I spend so much time with myself that it is easy to start believing that my way is the only way. My reality is the only reality. My opinions and choices are the only ones that make sense. Listening with Empathy starts cutting through this illusion. Understanding someone to the core may never come! But, I guess, understanding that I may never completely understand anything waters humility. In me it also waters grounded-ness and curiosity.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t be here without Vipassana.

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