I grew up in a noisy family. Whether it was just the four of us, or the house was full of people partying, one of my school friends once drew attention to the fact that we Morgans all shout at once but no-one listens to anyone. This remains the status quo; I love and accept it’s just who we are. But I tell my family that in other people’s homes it isn’t like that. There one talks and another listens and then they swap roles. This seems almost incredible to us, apparently undesirable to most but remains a deep yearning for me.
It is my experience now of life beyond my family that it’s still noisy, and getting noisier all the time. So I seek to carve out ever increasing chunks of peace and quiet where at least I can hear myself. Sally Kirkman sent me a link to a book she and I both know we will love. It’s called A Book Of Silence by Sara Maitland and having downloaded and thoroughly enjoyed the sample on my Kindle, I’ve added it to my Wish List at Amazon. The writer tells of her noisy childhood, exactly the same as mine except for the colour of their politics. Now Ms Maitland appears to live remotely and a long way up in Scotland somewhere. Tempting!
So this yearning to be heard, appreciated, understood and known at a deep soul level has been swimming around in my subconscious for what seems like forever. Perhaps this why I love to write and blog, because I can share my thoughts with the world and you can reply but you cannot interrupt. Perhaps this is why I have participated so readily in listening experiences at Skyros, in Speaking Circles and with my coaching colleague Allison Galbraith. I have learned much from each opportunity in their different but crucially related ways.
Somewhere in my memory or consciousness, I have this awareness of me as a (slightly) older woman, wearing flowing kaftan-like robes (!) and with maybe longer even greyer hair. And I’m in a Spa in the Caribbean which I may or may not own and I offer myself as a Soul Listener. I sit in silence while visitors talk from their soul to mine. Somewhere, some day, this will come to pass. Hold that vision, Gentle Reader.
And then last weekend I devoured an inspirational book, almost in one sitting, called 29 Gifts by Cami Walker, a woman newly diagnosed with MS. Cami is advised by medicine woman Mbali to participate in the 29 Gifts Challenge of giving away 29 gifts in 29 days. Somehow this seemed to be my moment and I woke up on Monday morning, the day before yesterday, inspired to give away 29 Soul2Soul listening sessions of 10-15 minutes where I would listen to you quietly while you talked without interruption.
Be the change you want to see in the world, right?
So I got up determined to offer these sessions to my peer group. I tweeted it and sent out one email to my Money-Making Magic Google Group and hey presto! I received my first gift. The very wonderful Sue Okell of Life Change Secrets asked me if I would like her to forward my message to her list. Would I? My tweet brought one reply, and my Google Group brought a handful more but Sue enabled me to book all 29 sessions by lunchtime that first day and create a reserve list to which I am still adding an abundance of names 48 hours later. Miracle #1.
So far I’ve enjoyed listening to four people, two of whom were complete strangers to me. One of my talkers had a message for me “You are loved” and yesterday I won £5.70 on the lottery, gifts #2 and #3. Part of Cami’s story is the gifts she started to receive once she found a way to make the focus outside herself, and to help her to allow as she came to see herself as part of an abundant universe. You’ve only to look at her website now to see how far this idea has spread. What a wonderful achievement!
Cami encourages us to keep a journal of our story of the 29 days and I’m doing that here and at 29Gifts.org. I have no idea where my own listening experiment will lead, although I have hopes and dreams for it. Imagine if my 29 paid it forward to 29 more who paid it forward in turn? Quite soon a large number of people would be being heard for 10 uninterrupted minutes for perhaps the first real time in their lives. The sheer number of willing applicants for my experiment makes me realise I am not alone in this deep yearning to be fully heard. There’s a hunger. I’ve always known too that my entrepreneur clients get clear with their mouths open, whilst talking to me.
Conversation is a wonderful thing and yet a completely different thing; my best friend calls me Little Miss Chatterbox. We don’t listen all that well as we are excited about what we are going to say next, to contribute to the discussion. Ego, ego, ego. Fun, fun, fun. But not much listening, listening, listening.
Obviously I am guaranteeing complete confidentiality to those I am listening to with my soul as they speak to me from theirs, but here are my guidelines in case you want to play along and experiment with listening amongst your own friends, family and colleagues:
1. Ask your talkers not to rehearse what they are going to say before they start talking.
2. Suggest they might like to take the first few seconds to breathe in and out until it occurs to them what they want to tell you.
3. Do not talk or interrupt them or ask questions, especially during their silences. But feel free to mm-mm occasionally so they know you are present, and do laugh if they are being funny. Be 100% present to the best of your ability and create circumstances where you can provide a quiet environment to focus just on your speaker.
4. Tell them it’s OK if they go quiet during their 10 minutes and to start up again later if they want to. During the silences, sit quietly and companionably together, the quiet bits are exquisite, almost my favourite bits. It’s amazing what you can hear in the unsaid. We are in virtual silence, my talkers and me, as I’m doing all these sessions on Skype. I do all the calls on audio, not video, as I want to focus on the quality of my listening and I find pictures distract. If you are doing it face to face, maintain good eye contact. Pay attention to your talker and put your gentle soft-eyed focus on them.
5. Ask them to time themselves and tell you when they are finished, again so you don’t have to interrupt them to tell them to stop.
6. Try to listen with parts of your body below your ears, i.e. not your brain. FEEL what they are saying.
7. Share something with them at the end, something you heard them say or felt they left unsaid, or some observation. No coaching, no feedback, just appreciation and love from your soul to theirs. What did you FEEL while they were talking. If in doubt, say nothing at all except Thank You. Prepare them in advance for that. “At the end, I may have something to share with you or I may just thank you.”
8. Whatever unfolds, it’s perfect.
Let me know what happens when you start listening to others and/or you feel inspired to join the 29 Gifts Challenge?