AND Listen Deeply Again

March 9th, 2014

In a recent planning session with a wonderful group of volunteers spanning five decades, I was struck by both what we have in common and what unique gifts we can offer each other. Although on the surface our lives may look very different, this group has the ability to appreciate what we have in common.

This ability to appreciate what we have in common is an invitation to all of us to see the humanity present in every situation in which we find ourselves. Beneath the packages of race, gender, age, body type, nationality, and myriad other differences is the person. The person, devoid of roles and expectations for performance, exists in all of her or his splendor for each of us to discover. Sometimes we are so stuck in expectations of others based on our needs, desires, fears, and unconscious upbringing that we fail to connect with the humanity underneath, the desire to be welcomed and seen, accepted in the nakedness of who we are at our core—as opposed to what we can do for someone.

At the same time, the diverse experiences that provide access to new wisdom and perspective are embedded in the unique journeys of different people. In the planning session mentioned above, we had nearly completed one part of our work and were ready to move on when first one, then another, then a third voice expressed a perspective thought to be unnecessary by others in the room. By pausing to listen more deeply by the time the third voice articulated the same concern, we came to recognize what these speakers had in common.

All were reflecting a change in a much younger generation that would cause the work we were doing to be understood differently, and in fact, limit the success of what we were doing if we didn’t address their point. Each speaker in turn spoke as an individual. Yet the common concern finally caused the rest of us to listen more deeply, to reframe assumptions we were carrying because of our age and experience, and to recognize what these speakers were trying to express.

Only because we were committed to something we cared about more than ego and individual political agendas did we care enough to really listen more deeply. Only because we were more attached to what we were trying to do together were we willing to detach from deeply held preferences for how the work was to proceed and hear something we might have missed. AND because the speakers did not give up, we actually stopped to really listen.

What would it take in our everyday lives to both seek and respond with kindness to the shared humanity beneath roles being played AND listen more deeply to wisdom that we might not otherwise hear, recognizing that it can come in any package, at any time, and it is our job to be present to listen and hear?

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