Where are you located?

January 31, 2023

Where are you located?

By Amba Gale

When seeing a strange photograph like the one above, you might, perhaps, think I am asking you about the geographical location.  I am, however, not.

I am, instead, asking you a question around where you are located when you are with anther human being.

.…At first glance, this may occur to you as a peculiar question, for sure, but one, when responded to with “over there, with them,” makes all the difference in the essential quality of the conversation.

When you are truly “over there, with them,” what can open up is a profound quality of connection, and the person you are with has a sense of being known, being listened to, being deeply understood. 

Listening in this way makes all the difference in the world.

And there are levels of awareness in listening – you can listen to not only what they are saying, but what their experience is behind what they are saying, what their intention is, (can you create for yourself a benign intention?) and, finally, who they are at their deepest essence.

This experience of my deepest essence meeting and acknowledging yours is what the Tibitan’s greeting of “Tashi Deley” is. There, in Tibet, on the high mountains passes, as they pass one another, they bow to one another, look each other in the eyes, and say “Tashi Deley.” It means, “I honor the greatness is you.”

Most of the time we are not “over there with them,” at one with them, listening for and honoring their greatness.

Instead, we are located right over here, with ourselves, inside our own heads.

And, we are not really listening to them, we are listening to ourselves.

So, rather than hearing what they are saying, we are listening to what we are saying to ourselves…commenting on what they are saying, judging, voting, agreeing, disagreeing. Our internal chatter is incessant: (“I like that,” “I don’t like that,” “how long are they going to talk”?  “I already know what they are going to say so I might as well check out,” “I’m never going to be as good as them”) etc.  Like that.

Listening for discovery, or for being contributed to, or being authentically and  intensely interested in their world, and allowing them to share it with you, is another matter. There, we find we are not separate. We are connected. We are one.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk teacher, speaks of this kind of listening as “Compassionate Listening.” He says, “in the practice of compassionate listening, you listen with only one purpose: to give the other person a chance to speak out and suffer less. Practice breathing in and out deeply and concentrate on what you are hearing. While the other person speaks, they may express bitterness, wrong perceptions, or make accusations.  If you allow these things to touch off the anger in you, then you lose your capacity to listen deeply. Listening with mindfulness helps you to keep your compassion alive.  It protects you, and your anger will not be triggered. Even fifteen minutes of listening like this can be very healing and can bring a lot of relief to another. You may be the first person who has ever listened to him or her like that.”

During the second week of January this year, I had the enormous privilege of leading a retreat with a community of people who have worked together over many years. We led each other into an exploration and inquiry in Living from Love. We explored what the pathways are, for each of us, for Generating Peace Within: Compassion, Patience, Simplicity.

What was singularly unique was the depth of dialogue, the witnessing, forwarding, and transporting of each other across inner thresholds, which allowed for the creation of new perspectives, through our profound and compassionate listening. One of the retreat participants called the experience “Shared Presence.”

While the first stanza of the following poem was written as a blessing prior to the retreat, the last two stanzas came through me the morning after.

I invite you to “try on” this kind of listening that allows for diving into a“well of deep Understanding.”


Shared Presence

By Amba Gale

May we be with one another,
touch our souls, one to one,
slowing as we circle in a dance
where our hearts beat as one.

No breath separates us here,
no clashing of the swords
gnashing of the teeth,
nor wielding of the shields
in defensiveness, divisiveness, pretense, and argument.

Only the peace and compassion that comes
from a well of deep Understanding,
of listening to one another’s heartbreak,
of knowing the purity of Speaking and Being
that comes from listening from love.

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