Adapted from TA Teachers, Margit Bantowsky and Joanne Lee
Whole Being Listening
Perhaps one of the most critical skills in a mutuality circle is the ability to listen with one’s whole being. Whole being listening is a way of being with another person that is based in a lot of presence. We listen to the other person speak while simultaneously noticing what’s going on inside our own body – emotions, sensations, energies, and thoughts. And, we listen to the other person, and our own experience, while allowing some attention to also simultaneously rest in consciousness, the broad awareness that is and holds everything.
Whole being listening is really the doorway to mutuality and engaging the collective field. It requires that we broaden our attention to include as many dimensions of our experience as possible – our body, the room, the space in and beyond the room, our sensations, what we’re hearing the other person or the group say, what we’re seeing. We’re tracking what is spoken, what is unspoken, and how we’re affected by all of it… within the entire field of Being.
Six Categories of Reflection
The following categories provide examples of reflection that does and does not align with the overall aim of supporting conscious, embodied awakening. Students new to the Trillium path can begin to develop effective habits, while seasoned practitioners can benefit from periodic reminders of these basic practices.
These four common ways of giving reflection do not generally support the embodied awakening process.
After the speaker shares, the listener goes off into their own story and “steals the thunder” from the speaker. There can be unconscious one-upmanship, e.g. “My experience is worse/better/juicier than yours.” Or there can be an intention to display empathy, e.g. “I know exactly how you feel; that’s how I felt when this same/similar thing happened to me…” But then the storytelling can divert attention away from the original person who shared.
- Interpreting / Analyzing / Judging
After the speaker shares, the listener applies some sort of diagnosis or label onto the speaker based on what they just shared. For instance, the listener might say something like, “It sounds like you might be depressed or have anxiety issues.” Or, “Of course you’re angry. That person isn’t respecting your boundaries.”
The speaker shares something tender, and the listener minimizes it by somehow suggesting the speaker shouldn’t feel the way they do. For example, the listener might say something like, “But you’re such a wonderful person. Of course you’re loved.” Or, “Oh, that’s not really so bad…it could be so much worse.” Or, “You should be happy that at least you have a mother you can have a relationship with.”
- Advice Giving / Fixing
After the speaker shares, the listener gives advice or tries to fix. It can be direct, for example “You might try doing more greenlighting around that” or “It might be good for you to practice more self-kindness.” Or, the advice may be somewhat indirect, as in “When I was in the same kind of situation, I went to Dr. Smith and it was great.”
There are two categories of reflection that help the listener make deeper contact with their experience, and better supports the awakening process.
The most important thing is that the person who shared feels that he/she has been heard, “got” and connected with.
The listener gives the speaker back to themselves:
- Essence – the listener reflects back the essence of something the speaker shared: “I hear how hard this is for you.”
- Paraphrasing — the listener gives back the “gist” of what they heard, being careful not to add their own interpretations or projections.
The listener shares what happened in them as a result of what the speaker said – what their organism’s “response” to the sharing was:
- Physical sensation — the listener very briefly reports a physical sensation they noticed while they were listening to the speaker. It can be helpful, but not necessary, to mention a specific moment in the share: “I got goose bumps when you spoke,” or “I felt an ache in my heart when you talked about your child.”
- Emotion – the listener briefly reports an emotion that arose inside them during their partner’s share. Again, a specific moment can be helpful: “I felt sadness hearing about your loss,” or “I noticed a wave of delight inside me when you were talking about your recent vacation.”
- Image or phrase — the listener briefly reports, without interpretation, an image or phrase that arose while listening to their partner. Could also be a sensation that has an image with it. For example: “Listening to you, I just got an image of a wide blue sky,” or “When you were talking about your father, I felt my skin crawl,” or “After hearing your share, I’m left with the word “Grace.””
- Struck or touched by — the listener briefly reports something they were really struck or impacted by: “I was impacted by your calm composure as you spoke.” Or “I was struck by the clarity of your share,” or “I couldn’t help noticing that you kept balling your hands into fists.”