The Power of Listening: The Heart’s Ancient Technology

Early this morning a friend sent me a sweet email with this link to a NY Times opinion page from last Saturday.  Entitled “How Not to Be Alone,” Jonathan Safran Foer writes poignantly about what I would call our “trained incapacity” for not effectively listening and being present with others – in whatever situation we find the other person. The article recounts the dilemma of the observer to another’s public and obvious (psychological) suffering: to reach out, to not reach out; if one reaches out – what can one do or say?  I particularly liked Foer’s observation that  “My daily use of technological communication has been shaping me into someone more likely to forget others. The flow of water carves rock, a little bit at a time. And our personhood is carved, too, by the flow of our habits.” Along that water and rock theme. . . Here is a beautiful video with a favorite Enya song “Water Shows the Hidden Heart” This is certainly a dilemma of our modern technology, human created and its long-term effects still barely understood. Another aspect of technology’s intrusion into our modern psyche is evident in the medical context at the end of life.  I recently got the Life Quality Institute’s e-newsletter and it had a beautiful story about listening.  I should add that there are indeed many kinds of listening, but when technology gets involved, we tend to become more distant from our hearts and the ability to comprehend and see another person’s point of view .  This article  is about a desperate situation with a gravely ill elder father and his anxiety ridden youngest son.  Bottom line though, it is about the importance of being present and listening, actively listening to find out  – asking questions and not relying on our own assumptions about what we think is happening .  This requires a slowing down. The beautiful thing about our hearts is that they already know how to do this – all we have to do is slow down long enough to create that space so we can remember what it feels like.  Grief can be a reminder of this.  We tend to view grief as something painful only, but it can also be a teacher.  Turns out, accepting and experiencing negative emotions may be a key to psychological well-being.  The heart’s lessons are simply too important to ignore – we do so at our own peril. Barb Cashman on GriefLink Barb Cashman's Website


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