Category Archives: Spirituality

Listening When It’s Hard

When we are arguing with another person, odds are we aren’t listening well. We are usually dealing with our intense personal feelings and defending our point of view.

But listening to what’s been said to us can actually be quite helpful.

In my heated exchanges with my wife, for example, I find (often reluctantly, mind you) there is always some validity to her complaints.

If I’m arguing, it is usually because I prefer to focus on the validity of my complaints. But if I’m being honest, I need to accept responsibility for my side of the street.

This is actual good news. When I have looked at my behavior through my wife’s eyes, I’ve always seen is ways I can grow as a husband, father and human being. And that really has resulted in a great deal of fulfilling (and humbling) personal growth.

Our partners, friends, family members, business colleagues – all of them have powerful penetrating wisdom and intelligence. All human beings without exception are powered by this intelligence.

If someone is sharing their views with you, there is, by definition, intelligence and wisdom in what the other person is saying. And if they are sharing it loudly and urgently, it is a good guess there is an important message in what they’re saying.

Now, does this mean taking what they say as gospel? Of course not; that would be relinquishing our own intelligence. Their perspective is necessarily limited and subjective, just the same as all of us.

What I’m pointing to is the value of listening and being open to considering what your partner is saying. Doing that transforms arguments into avenues for our growth.

Doing this requires that we let go of being right and open ourselves up to seeing things in new and different ways. It means recognizing our perspective is always subjective and incomplete.

The problem with arguments is can be hard to set aside our personal feelings to look for the truth and value in what our partner is sharing.  Which is why I am not suggesting that arguments are a good idea in and of themselves. There are more helpful ways to communicate if we can manage it. It’s just sometimes we can’t.

And even then, even in the midst of righteousness and anger, there is an opportunity to listen, to open ourselves up to hearing new things.

That sliver of humility makes space for wisdom to show up.  And that wisdom is the gateway to fresh insight and a better experience.

The Issue With “Issues”

It’s a dogma of contemporary self-help that “issues” are real things that are lodged in our psyche and that we need to actively work to dislodge them to experience well-being.

But it’s more accurate to say that “issues” are comprised of recurring thoughts that once understood as such resolve themselves through a natural self-correcting process.

Internal distress or suffering is a sign that our thinking has veered into unproductive territory. If I’m feeling anxious, worried about life, money, work, I am using the power of thought to create an anxious experience. That anxiousness is unrelated to circumstances.

That anxiousness is unrelated to circumstances, and it is not anchored to or connected to anything permanent or fixed in my psyche. In other words, as soon as my thoughts changed, so will my anxiousness.

And since thought is ephemeral by nature, and since the mind is self-correcting by nature, thoughts will change and so will our experience.

Once we understand this, we can look towards the natural capacity of our psyche to correct towards balance, clarity and deeper understanding. We stop obsessing

But when we think distress is more than a sign of temporary imbalanced thinking — when we think, for example, it is a sign of deeper “issues” or that our life circumstances are at fault — it starts to make sense to dive deeper into the difficult thoughts, to study and solve them, to examine their roots and causes.

That inquiry has us dwelling on our past, on our grievances, on our circumstances.

We can get so wrapped up in that, we forget we all have a natural process that restores us to well-being and gives us the capacity to move forward with life, without our having to “do” anything.  It’s just how we are wired.

Well-being is at the core of each of us, untarnished and unbreakable. That well-being is continually emerging for us in each moment, in the form of fresh wisdom, insights, understanding and ideas, that give us what we need to navigate life.

Yes we experience stress and suffering. But that’s how the system wakes us up and keeps us healthy. It’s how we know our thoughts are imbalanced and that it is time to look inwards, towards our innate, built-in, well-being for fresh ideas.

We can move forward, knowing wisdom and well-being are at the core of our nature and will see us through. It’s natural process, and we can count on it.