The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tonight's dharma talk during our Liturgy and Meditation centered on Right Speech and Deep Listening, and the intimate connection between the two practices.

I sometimes feel inarticulate and hesitant when addressing the Sangha, but I look for a place of flow and recognize that flow also functions as ebb, the one doesn't exist without the other, and so it is with our ability to speak and listen with Upaya.

With our thoughts we make the world, the Buddha said. What did he mean by that? What is the world that exists without thoughts? Words are a direct extension of our thoughts...with our words we make the world more to our liking.

Intention has everything to do with Right Speech. But how can we truly know what we intend? If delusions are endless, how do we end them?

By listening deeply to our True Self, through authentic and bold self awareness, we become attuned to our root intentions. We become attuned to what is unproductive speech: words that foment discord and drama, words that harm oneself and others, words that are intentional lies, and words that constitute mindless chatter.

We employ Right View to understand what Right Speech truly is.

When we decide to use skillful means we are practicing Right Mindfulness, and the full practice of all is Right Effort--it takes patience and vitality to come back to the cycle of Right View, Right Mindfulness and consequently, Right Speech.

Right Speech, all speech, assumes that there is a listener on the other end, and the exchange and relationship created by this bond is intimately alive and vibrant.

But Deep Listening may even be more challenging than speaking mindfully!
Our culture values information bits, bites and bursts in a dizzying splash of drama and excitement, as if what is being conveyed is not worthwhile unless it is communicated like buckshot. Or like a drive-by shooting.
We've probably all experienced conversations where we felt as if we've been mugged and left on the street, dazed and bleeding!
And our reptilian brains will easily take control. This is, after all, how our ancestors managed to crawl up from the mud: we discern instantly through our senses, in this case our hearing sense, if the moment offers danger or safety, whether we should flee or plant our feet and relax our shoulders, if we are in the presence of something that might eat us or something we can eat.
So our hearing sense has played a huge part in enabling us to be safe, to survive in a complex and dangerous environment, and while the dangers have greatly abated and changed since our cave people days, we are still hardwired to make instantaneous judgments based on a sliver of communication. A word, a phrase, a sound bite, an innuendo...and all coming at us at warp speed.

All the better to get what we want and get on with the next thing!

We are accustomed to listening quickly, on the run, with one ear tuned to a dozen different, seemingly important sounds: the washing machine, the baby, the news, the simmering pot, the neighbor's leaf blower (*^%#@)!, the car alarm the next street alarm, how did that get in there?!?

Our minds do a remarkable job of sorting through the stimuli, but it's tough to always discriminate between what is essential to our safety and well being and what is not!
Is it any wonder that we miss the soft details of a spouse's uncertainty about a work situation, or a friend's joyous retelling of her child's accomplishments? Why are we surprised when we think we understand a best friend's fears, but then realize we have no idea what he's really "complaining" about?

Deep listening is not a friend of multi tasking.
Deep listening requires an open heart, it requires time and silence. Deep listening means being still and not allowing words of reaction or rebuttal to pile up behind our foreheads like cars in rush hour traffic.
Deep listening requires an ebb and flow of energy, and trusting that energy will allow for Right Speech when it is appropriate to speak.

Speak only the speech
that neither torments self
nor does harm to others.
That speech is truly well spoken.

Speak only endearing speech,
speech that is welcomed.
Speech when it brings no evil
to others
is pleasant.

These are skillful means and this is what the Buddha said.

1 comment:

karen anne said...

I think one of the few times I've experienced deep listening was with my Hospice patient. I was there with her with no other agenda - just to be with her and to listen. Nothing else existed in those moments; outside distractions receded. I'm forever grateful to Clara for that gift - I know such moments of deep listening are possible.