Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
- (Sufi Poet Rumi)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Transforming Hard to Hear Messages to Heart to Heart Messages

I wonder if you have places in your life where you dread talking to a particular person or avoid them because of the possibility of discomfort or of hearing and saying things you’d rather not? Perhaps you don’t trust yourself to have the skills to react with compassion for yourself or for others? Or maybe you really don’t want to hear “you aren’t good enough” or criticisms about the way you think, feel, or do things? It’s true that we only have so much time and energy to deal with social challenges, and I’m guessing that the desire for ease and harmony are factors why you may not seek to connect with people. I’m also guessing that fear is at the root of why you might be avoiding connection, and hence missing the change to live authentically, with power and aliveness based on life giving needs.

If this is you (and I can’t imagine anyone for whom this doesn’t fit) there is a way you can intentionally practice to overcome your fear. To begin with, imagine the very worse that could happen in a conversation. Notice any feelings that arise and the needs behind the hard to hear message. Mourn that these needs might not be met, and probably aren’t being met right now with that individual. Then rest in the beauty of these life-giving needs. To connect to these needs is to give yourself life, to open your heart, and be open to empathy for yourself and the other person. From here creative possibilities may emerge. You might never ever actually hold this conversation with the other person, but you will get in touch with your needs and out of this you gain the strength to make requests of yourself and others that serve life instead of hiding in disconnecting fear.

For example, imagine that you are avoiding someone at your work place who you feel isn’t doing the work they were hired to do. You avoid talking to them because in the past they have responded angrily when you asked them to do something. Imagine now asking if they’d be willing to talk to you for a few minutes, and they agree. What is the worse thing you might hear? Perhaps you’d hear something like this.

You are always so bossy. Who made you secret chief of this office?

Your needs here are respect, consideration, being heard and understood. These are lovely, gorgeous needs. This is what you choose to connect to and not the stories and voices of your past saying your are “selfish” or “bossy” or a “troublemaker.” These are labels that are labile. They cause instability in relationships, and send a message to you to adapt to life giving messages based on needs and not on judgments.

In this way you can move from hearing judgments and maybe, just maybe, you can overcome your fear and actually talk face to face with a person, because what could come out of this will be life and love and understanding. In time, you’ll be able to transform these hard to hear messages into heart to heart messages. May this be so

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