I find my Recording and Listening practice to be an excellent way to train in listening. One way I practice this is with a version of the two-handed recording exercise described by Cheri in the “Sangha Says” audio section of this blog.
I first put the recorder in my right hand and express everything that is going on for me with no filter. Then I hold the recorder in my left hand and simply listen. Sometimes something drops in from the Mentor to record, and often the act of listening seems to be the greatest kindness that can be offered, much better than any words that could have been uttered. This experience has been quite profound for me.
I have had a belief that strong emotion shouldn’t arise, and if it does I need to return to a “peaceful” state as quickly as possible. This belief supports the idea that something needs to be done about strong emotion when it arises.
The simple exercise described above has demonstrated to me time and again that simply listening is a powerful support for the person experiencing the strong emotion. Attentive listening seems to acknowledge the experience of the person who has the strong emotion and helps me see that there really is nothing wrong with the experience of strong emotion. I have found this listening is much more helpful than the “fixing” and “problem solving” that is the conditioned reaction.
The practice of attentive listening has allowed me to offer myself support in many difficult situations. As a bonus, it has also trained me to offer the gift of simply listening to friends and family.