We all have a self-care gift to give. It is a gift for both giver and receiver. The gift is to listen…open heartedly. It is that simple! The gift of generous openhearted listening supports effective relationships and cultivates a compassionate nature that is central to creating and sustaining self-care.
Today, cryptic soundbites and the shorthand of social media, texting and tweeting have replaced meaningful conversation. Generous listening is an art that can restore depth and texture to communication, but it is becoming an endangered species…one that we dare not lose.
My experience as a hospice social worker has taught me to listen with my whole self, without judgment, criticism or expectations. When I am at the bedside I am in the presence of Truth. There is nothing else present in the room except nonjudgmental acceptance and love. The work at end of life is no different from the work of every day. We all need to feel love, to be heard, and to be accepted. We all need a safe space to talk openly. Listening without judgment, agenda, interruption, or criticism creates this space. Allowing the silence between the words to be honored is to heal.
According to Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, “Generous listening is simply being present to know another person’s truth at the time that they are speaking. When we listen without interruption, criticism, or judgment, we offer a place of refuge and profound safety that allows for genuine connection and open sharing”.
With generous listening comes the ability to listen attentively and to be present with the experience, be it suffering or joy. Openhearted listening creates presence by holding safe space for ourselves and others. This presence enables us to hear thoughts, feelings and beliefs as they arise. Staying silent is hard. Yet staying silent is healing.
The following excerpt expresses the need that generous listening fills:
“Listen to me, please; I need to talk to you;
Accept what I experience, what I feel,
without reserve, without judgment.
Do not bombard me with questions, advice and opinions;
Do not feel obliged to settle my difficulties,
I do not feel it is your duty to approve, if I need to tell my story
It is simply to be set free.
Do not interrupt me to question me;
Respect the silences, which help me to make progress;
Be very careful not to break them;
It is very often through them that things are clarified.” – Anonymous
We all can do this by being quiet in body, mind and soul for others…and ourselves.
Generous listening cultivates self-care by taming the “inner critic”. It awakens your openhearted, non-judgmental awareness. This awareness can increase your comfort with silence. In the silence, there is a safe space to hear yourself and others think. Openhearted listening will also help to support effective relationships and reinforce your compassionate soul. Compassion for others and ourselves is what self-care is all about.
March 9th 2015, written by Marcy Bernstein for bodono.
Marcy BernsteinLMSW, is the Founder and Director of endoflifewisdom.org. The website endoflifewisdom.org is the place to ask questions and receive compassionate support for people who have to deal with terminal illness. It is a place where compassionate answers to individual’s questions from hospice professionals are provided. Topics range from one’s concern about how to talk about death and dying, what hospice is anyway, how to visit the sick, family issues, advance planning and more.