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Photo by Marius Coetzee

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”
~Henry David Thoreau

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“One of the deepest longings of the human soul is to be seen.”
~John O’Donohue

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“When a person realizes he has been deeply heard, his eyes moisten. I think in some real sense he is weeping for joy. It is as though he were saying, “Thank God, somebody heard me. Someone knows what it’s like to be me”

“When I have been listened to and when I have been heard, I am able to re-perceive my world in a new way and to go on. It is astonishing how elements that seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens, how confusions that seem irremediable turn into relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard. I have deeply appreciated the times that I have experienced this sensitive, empathic, concentrated listening.”
~Carl Rogers

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“If‌ ‌we‌ ‌continue‌ ‌using‌ ‌the‌ ‌old‌ ‌strategies‌ ‌that‌ ‌have‌ ‌caused‌ ‌the‌ ‌current‌ ‌global‌ ‌crisis‌ ‌and‌ ‌which‌ ‌are‌ ‌in‌ ‌their‌ ‌consequences‌ ‌destructive‌ ‌and‌ ‌self-destructive,‌ ‌it‌ ‌might‌ ‌lead‌ ‌to‌ ‌annihilation‌ ‌of‌ ‌modern‌ ‌civilization‌ ‌and‌ ‌possibly‌ ‌even‌ ‌the‌ ‌human‌ ‌species.‌

‌However,‌ ‌if‌ ‌a‌ ‌sufficient‌ ‌number‌ ‌of‌ ‌people‌ ‌undergo‌ ‌a‌ ‌process‌ ‌of‌ ‌inner‌ ‌psychospiritual‌ ‌transformation‌ ‌and‌ ‌attain‌ ‌a‌ ‌higher‌ ‌level‌ ‌of‌ ‌awareness,‌ ‌we‌ ‌might‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌future‌ ‌reach‌ ‌a‌ ‌situation‌ ‌when‌ ‌we‌ ‌will‌ ‌deserve‌ ‌the‌ ‌name,‌ ‌which‌ ‌we‌ ‌have‌ ‌so‌ ‌proudly‌ ‌given‌ ‌to‌ ‌our‌ ‌species:‌ ‌Homo‌ ‌sapiens.”‌ ‌ ‌ — Stanislav‌ ‌Grof‌ ‌

Genius could be defined as intense listening. Of course, listening is difficult if your mind is overburdened with self-interest and a habit of already knowing. Readymade conclusions and prejudgments kill intelligence at the root. Rote learning is the death of education.

My father was born in 1906. Both his parents were school teachers. He learned not to question, not to listen, but to parrot conclusions from the “great men” of history. He was proud of knowing things, which he took for intelligence. I never saw him listen to any of his six children. He was always holding forth in a monotonous drone. My mother developed involuntary tics because “he wouldn’t stop talking.”

Faced with a situation where what I had to say was of no interest, I naturally gravitated toward the arts. Once I could externalize what was inside me I began to heal. Not only heal, but learn what was in me and to grow in awareness. I started to come out of the shadows. Art, in the beginning, was a therapeutic strategy for me.

I think it damages children not to be heard. A child learns unfortunate lessons in that case, trust being one of the most important ones. To trust others is to trust yourself, in a sense. Only when you trust yourself can you learn who you are, what your true nature is. It’s hard to find the right work and love in life if you don’t know yourself.

It took me longer than it needed to for me to learn trust, but as I did, my life grew more creative, peaceful and adapted to who I am. Living at “a distance from myself,” as T.S Eliot puts it, led me into a lot of deadends.

I was middle aged before I began to find my path. In the process I devised a way to speak from the heart via Art and a few select people who could listen.

It’s not uncommon for people to find themselves in this situation. Few people really know how to listen. Sometimes you even have to pay someone to pay attention to you. It’s not unusual that people can’t access their truth through language. They have to dance or sing it out, paint it out.

In a noisy world too busy to listen, one of our biggest tasks is to get quiet enough to hear ourselves. When we can do that, we can offer the gift of listening to others.

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