Hearing Ourselves and Others
I previously believed that our conscious mind led the way leaving our unconscious mind to simply smooth things out. This didn’t match with anything I saw in life or in therapy. When we stop talking, stop that conversation that is always going on in our mind, we again are ready ‘to hit that fastball’. This is true for anything that requires practice. Therapists are taught that listening deeply initiates change and that rapport rather than approach is the instrument of those changes.
Finding Meaning in Life: The Gift of Listening
People come to a therapist to find answers and walk away having found themselves. They also pass on their hard fought wisdom to their therapist. At lectures a therapist has seen the answers and now listens to researchers to see if what they hypothesize matches up with the answers that the therapist has been able to accumulate. I was excited at a neurobiology seminar when I first heard an explanation of the conscious-unconscious interface that seemed to agree with the experiences that patients had left with me. Basically, studies have shown that for complex tasks, the unconscious mind gives conscious mind permission to think, feel or act just before every thought, feeling or action took place. Putting this together, we find that when we talk before we deeply listen, not much changes for us or others. When we are deeply listening with every sense, even while talking, we enter a new realm of possibilities of personal growth and contribution. My teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, always knew this, as have many other great teachers.
In our deep listening, we appreciate the slight variability’s in each feeling a person expresses. This encourages each of us to listen deeply to ourselves and others. We engage our conscious and unconscious mind in a quest for correlations with a wide array of physical, personal and social factors. I drew upon this type of listening during my residency in internal medicine and later psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic. I developed my appreciation of our body’s internal wisdom combined with a desire to hear what was being said, and not being said by the ‘child of God’ (patient) I was given the opportunity to be with. (My personal expression of my Higher Power) I found that we know how we feel, if we listen deeply. Truly listening starts the authentic path of the relationship and guides us to find the answers. By living each moment this way we walk through our lives awake. We find the answers. We also learn more deeply how to find answers. We transform ‘problems’ into wisdom rather than pushing our problems aside. We incorporate answers rather than just letting go of ‘old problems’. We quickly move on to new questions that take us to our ground of being. This way of life becomes our authentic expression of our life path of compassion.
The Role of Mentoring and Finding Meaning in Life
When we don’t yet fully understand why we feel the way we do. That’s not really the goal. This dance experience is life-long and requires the intention of loving compassion and the energy of mindful attention. We come into this life with our personal gifts. Intelligence, strength, sensitivity and a certain flavor of support among others. Each gift will require teachings in the wisdom as we experience them, how to use the gift and when to lay the gift down. Each gift presents a part of us, leading us to a slowly forming sense of self and of personal responsibility towards others. If we are taught these things when we are young, finding meaning in life is easier as we are naturally drawn to those who have already mastered at least a portion of what we will need to know. Under the tutelage of these relationships we learn to feel good about actively seeking what we need and what we have to give.
Avoiding Distractions as We Arrive at the Heart of Our Questions
Working together, we can ask others who know us about any changes they may have noticed in us recently. We might consider asking relatives about similar feelings they may have experienced, not only aunts and uncles but, cousins, nieces and nephews as well. We can mindfully follow and chart our concerns over time to access any hidden correlations. This can be very helpful when initial concerns prove to be distractions from the real purpose of our lives. When we find ourselves in an emotional cycle of excesses, anger/fear and delusion we must suspect that further investigations of these feelings are likely a waste of time. They serve to distract us from our real life, our real purpose, and our real search for answers. We can chart responses to anything we have tried including changes in our relationships, diet, vitamins, exercise, therapies and medications. Following the sequences of efforts can be fruitful. How quickly did we respond? How long did the response last? What happened when the effort stopped? Each part of this movie called life can all tell a part of our story and provide insights. We can consider a second or even a third opinion until we are satisfied. I believe our combined efforts create a kind of emotional or neurological ‘wave’ that we sustain when we meet our goals, thereby finding meaning in life. The sequence of a winning effort will likely be critical to understanding why something works or doesn’t work for us.
Loving Compassion as Our Guide
What direction do we take to find meaning in this life? What direction provides happiness that lasts? What direction helps us to grow? What direction could explain the various paths we are given to take? What direction can lead us to the answers we were born to find and share?
While we explore for cause and effect, we are moving in a positive direction. Even if we think we are ‘just taking care of the next thing’, we are following a pattern. Eventually, often through the ‘mid-life crisis, we are invited to dig into who we are and why we are here. The Wholistic Approach combines wisdom from a variety of sources and present loving compassion for our self and other as our guide. Our focus includes each person and each aspect of our lives together with the intention to relieve suffering through the actions of loving compassion. When we strive to better understand and help one another, we all benefit. When answers are found, everyone rejoices in the effort and willingly incorporates the wisdom. This creates an atmosphere where we feel more open to share deeply. Therapists tend to remain mindful, hear our verbal and nonverbal concerns and through empathy start the healing process.
Compassion for the Earth
In addition to the dance of interconnectedness within our minds and bodies, these same connections extend to the world we live in. We are rapidly learning the potential effects of a wide variety of environmental factors including the role of our diet, the air we breathe, the value of quiet time and spaces, skin and dental products, what we watch or read for entertainment, what we expose ourselves to as we expand our body and mind and the additive levels of stress we allow to keep us growing. Thankfully, the desire to monitor these parts of our lives is rising in our common awareness.