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December 01, 2018

The Gift Of Listening

Tags: Compassionate Listener, Talking Sticks, The Perfect Gift

It is that time of year when we give gifts and share from our hearts. What about a giving something very few others do this year, the act of listening? Most of us hear, and engage in conversation, but how often do we put our motives, and opinions aside, put our discomfort in park, and just listen? Usually when someone speaks it is open season. Either party can throw into the ring whatever they have going though their minds. The other then reacts, or takes the conversation someplace else entirely. More often than not we cut each other off mid sentence and rush in to prove our point. We judge, we one-up. When we are struggling, however, we don’t want feedback, we just need to feel heard and held.

If someone is expressing feelings that make us uncomfortable, we may put the breaks on and try to shut the conversation down. We find ourselves wanting to fix them, or the situation, or perhaps we start intellectualizing about the circumstance to make the moment more abstract. It isn’t easy to really listen to someone’s pain. The question we need to ask ourselves is, are we helping them by trying to alleviate it... or are we shutting them down because we are uncomfortable with it? Perhaps their floundering makes us feel helpless. Alternatively, we may have been exposed to unpredictable emotional outbursts in our families that make us wary of instability. If we were taught to put all “darkness” aside, however, we may never have learned how to navigate these realms. 

The person who is in inner conflict may be genuinely trying to reach out. They don’t know you can’t go there. They may be trying to share an intimate part of their soul with you, in hopes of establishing a deeper connection. If you are uncomfortable with emotions you will feel ill equipped for the exchange and try to distance yourself. Many of us try to fix others because their unhappiness makes us feel inadequate and uneasy. The message we give them in attempting to fix them, however, is that they are broken, and some part of them is inadequate. Are they though? Or are we afraid of this much emotional intimacy?

The gift of listening is the act of becoming a compassionate listener. It is holding space without needing to intervene. Their sadness isn’t ours, it isn’t for us to hold, fix, or contain, or even talk them out of, it is simply a deep part of themselves they feel safe enough to share with us. Just listen. You are not going to fall into the abyss. Their soul is crying out. They need connection. They need a long hug! Know it is temporary, they will bounce back, this isn’t contagious. You are not their dumping ground, you are their sacred witness! By simply listening you mirror their value, even when they are down. You say “Yes! I still see you, I’ve got you!” 

People in indigenous communities sit customarily in a circle and pass a talking stick around. They speak only when They have the stick. You cannot interrupt, you cannot react verbally at all. You simply hold space for that person to be heard. It has a twofold effect. One, it helps people feel heard, but secondly it teaches us to cool our jets, to sit on our agendas and look at our discomfort. It forces us to become more aware of our need to be right, win, in control, and our discomfort with emotion. It teaches us to hold space for one another. A person who can really hold space for another soul is actually quite rare. If you are wondering what you can give someone this year, know that truly listening is one of the greatest gift you can give! 

Christina Allen, Shamanic Healer, Teacher, and Founder and Director of the Austin Shamanic Center, combines a strong science (BA Physics, MS Neuroscience) background with decades of applied ancient spiritual wisdom (Master Yogi, Reiki Master, Shamanic Healer based, in part, on Q’ero Indian traditions of Peru). ASC offers profound Shamanic Self Development Workshops, professional trainings, and personal healings. Learn more at

© Austin All Natural, December 2018

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