07 September 2013

on practice, quiet and intention

sitting with the last light - mjd 2013

i had the great good fortune to hear thich nhat hanh speak in manhattan today.

it was calm
and beautiful,
and thought provoking.

one concept sitting deeply with me
is his discussion on
compassionate listening
and loving speech. 

can we listen
and without interruption
while someone speaks to us 
of their suffering?

especially when it has been at our own hand?

can you wait 3 or 4 days 
(as he suggests)
to clarify any misperceptions?

as a person who cringes
at any sign of conflict,

i feel a strong need 
to resolve things
talk them out
explain myself
when my world gets disharmonious.

i get right speech.
i will bite right through my tongue 
over saying something that will wound someone. 

that's the truth - 
because i know how words
can carve into your heart
and not be resolved by
'i'm sorry.'

this practice will be good
for me and my kids. 

bumpy ride expected - 
but at least it will be
in the name of kindness
and love. 


  1. What a truly marvellous opportunity MJ - it must have been amazingly special. Any journey undertaken in the name of kindness, understanding and love is worth it...

  2. compassionate listening ~ deep listening... thank you for sharing your extraordinary experience.

  3. He's an inspiration... and you are, too!

  4. Could I do that?? I love to defend, defend, explain and clarify endlessly. Wow. Could I do this? You're making my brain swell! In a good way~

  5. Compassionate listening is not easy. But let's face it, everyone needs it at one time or another. We must treat them as we would want to be treated. Thank you so much for the reminder. I sort of practiced it yesterday with two people, one that I have never met before, and another that I barely know. They both wanted to talk. I listed but all the while I was thinking how my Saturday was slipping away and I had so much to get done.

  6. Defend, explain and clarify are words to me that mean a confrontation.
    However, quiet after ill spoken words directed at me makes me seethe.

    This would have been a good talk for me to hear.
    xx, Carol

  7. I'm glad for you that you had this refreshing and uplifting day! What you are saying does indeed go against our defensiveness, our need for others to share in our images of ourselves (whenever we feel "misunderstood" there is always the possibility the other person is actually right-hard to swallow!), and our uncomfortable guilty feelings. And also our need to "make the hurt go away" as soon as possible when we've hurt someone. But you are right in this, we usually end up short-circuiting that person's opportunity to pour out their hurt to us and make us hear, and that's so important for getting over the hurt. It would indeed take a lot of humility to be able to let someone think the worst of us for several days, but I can see how it would allow for some dropping of defenses and clarity before having another conversation. Thank you for sharing this!

  8. The world is in need for heroes with kind and loving words instead of sharpened spears. I wish I had been with you at that presentation. His words and life go far in healing this world. xxxooo

  9. Bumpy rides are the most deeply felt and ultimately meaningful. When I was growing up I always heard you should never let the sun set on your anger. Meaning at the time that you had to resolve hurtful words very soon. Now that I reflect on that and what you've learned, I think maybe it could be better interpreted as letting your anger go before the 'sun sets' might be a way to reach compassionate understanding of others and their words and how our own words affect them. It all takes time.

  10. MJ - to hasten slowly is a hard thing for most of us; and waiting and quietly testing our understanding of what we hear is also hard - finding the balance is what I would like to achieve - still lots of practice. B

  11. Listening to others -and even to ourselves- is the hardest of exercises. Just listening... taking the time to understand... deflect the urge to give an immediate response. It's hard to accept that sometimes there are no answers to give, just the warm attention of listening, of being there. There are hundreds of 'ready-made' answers out there whose only purpose is to block the fears and uncertainties but cannot really address the problems. Attentive silence has almost been banned from our frenzied culture. It's been good to read this entry, Mary Jane.

  12. I wish a thousand times over I could have sat next to you and taken in his words. Love love love. xoxoxox


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