Chapter 4 “The Listening Mind”

I don’t know about you, but I always have a conversation going on in my head.  I have lists being made, being checked off, reviewed.  I am usually doing one thing and thinking about what I need to do next.  And when someone is talking to me, I quite often and wondering how to respond to them and/or trying to figure out how to help them (instead of really listening).  Active listening???  Not so much.  I am constantly reminding myself to practice ACTIVE listening…instead of being active while listening. *laugh*  So this chapter made complete sense to me!

When someone comes to talk to us and share their troubles, our minds tend to jump right into action.  They start talking, and we hear a little bit then immediately start to label/judge what they are saying.  We categorize what they are saying and then we pull up our experience with this category and staring listing ideas of how we can help them.  All the while, our friend is still sharing with us and we haven’t really be listening, have we?  They stop talking, or maybe they even ask us, “So what do you think?”.  Like a good friend, we have already made up our minds which direction to go and what to say, so we start spouting off our great ideas!  But are they really great?  Are they really what our friends need?  How can we even know what they really need if we were so busy thinking about what *WE* though they needed instead of listening for what their hearts are really telling us.  Whew!  Now there is something to think about.

So how do we stop this insanity?  How do we stop our minds from chattering about and making these lists and really detaching from our friends and/or people in need?  MEDITATE.  Stop the attachment to our thoughts.  Realize that yes, thoughts come and go, but they are not us and they certainly are not our friends.  They are just thoughts.  One will float on by and another will follow right behind it.  It’s okay.  Let them go.  Meditate, and quiet your mind.  Then in the still of that moment, your intuition will find a way to communicate with you, and you will KNOW what needs to be done to help your friend.  You will stop doing what YOU think is right, and really KNOW what IS right.  And maybe what is right is not doing anything at all, but just being there so that your friend feels heard.

In this chapter, it suggests practicing meditation and the art of letting go for 20 minutes a day.  Here is a great quote as it pertains to service:

“First, we have to appreciate the value of such qualities of mind and desire to develop them. Next we have to have faith in the possibility that we can indeed make progress.  Finally, we have to explore and practice appropriate techniques.  Twenty minutes a day of such practice can lead to results and the incentive to go deeper still.  Continuous practice brings about great transformation of mind and leads to a new quality of service.”

“When we function from this place of spacious awareness rather than from our analytic mind, we are often surprised to find solutions to problems without our having ‘figured them out.'”

Have you ever had the right answer just hit you like a ton of bricks..out of nowhere.  That Ah-Ha moment?  That is what this is like.  When we stop trying to “figure things out” and find that space of awareness where all things are possible, the right answer will just come to us.  When we stop being attached to the outcome of our own thoughts and about the way we think things should play out, and just give our own intuition the space to flow, we will truly be able to be of service to our friends, family, and people we serve around our community.  We won’t have to FIGHT it anymore..it will flow freely.

When we listen to our friends, with this kind of spacious awareness  in our minds, our friends will FEEL truly heard, and sometimes, that is all that they need.  I know for myself, I am constantly telling my husband, “I don’t need you to fix anything, I just want to be heard.”  Stop going into “White Knight Syndrome” and just listen; that is the greatest gift you can give anyone :).

Meditate and Let Go………and you will be more effective in your service :).

Chapter 5 “Helping Prison”

When we as service providers start labeling ourselves and label the ones that we help, we have a tendency to get stuck, or trapped, within those labels or forms.  “Entrapment in these alienates us from one another:  a social worker and a juvenile offender just miss; a nurse and a patient seem worlds apart; a priest and a parishioner, so distant, so formal.  What otherwise could be a profound and intimate relationship becomes ships passing in the night.  In the effort to express compassion, we end up feeling estranged.  It’s distressing and puzzling.”

These rolls we play continue in separating us from our true desire which is to be of service and be helpFUL instead of being Helpers.  As long as we continue to separate ourselves from those we want to help, we will be unable to truly give them what they need.

So why do we do this?

As someone who is active in 3 different volunteer organizations, I found this chapter really enlightening.  Each of us has our own reasons for being of service, but one thing we can all say is that when we have truly made a difference in someone’s life, it feels good.  There is a reciprocity in service relationships, but there is a fine balance.  Do you provide service to feel a void in your life (so then the result for you is that you fill that void) or do you see a need for service and your provide it (and as a result feel good because you were able to help someone)?  That is the line.  Are you a Helper or are your being Helpful.  Are you a noun or a verb?

In one of the organizations I volunteer for, there is always an orientation meeting and a training process.  During orientation, the new ladies are always asked, “Why do you want to join us?”  The replies very, but many of the answers are: I want to make new friends, I want to network, I want to have adult interaction and get away from my kids for a bit, I would like the training you provide…then these are always followed by, “And oh ya, I want to give back to community.”  Not this is not true for all of the women in this organization.  Now this is an amazing organization with a heart of gold.  The women are talented, amazing and caring, and they have done some amazing work in my community.  I do not say any of this to disparage them or the organization, but when I read this quote from the book, i was reminded of this organization:  “Or maybe we’re just plain lonely.  Intimacy is what we’re looking for, and it’s often there to be found in a helping relationship.”  “Rare indeed is the individual for whom the helping act does not arise in part out of some personal motive.  To the extent that it does, however, what we are looking for is a role that meets a need….our need.  We’re looking to be helpers, not simply to be helpful.  A personal agenda leads us to invest in the position, not simply the function.  And we invest in other’s reactions to it as well.”

As this “God Project” is about ME and my own personal journey, I will admit that the previous quotes gave me pause.  Why do *I* belong to this particular organization.  What was *my* answer to the question “Why do you want to join us?”  What was my motive?   I will say that I joined this organization because it allowed me to follow my passion which was to inspire young women to be strong and independent.  It allowed me to work with young women; it allowed me to be of service to them..which is what I had been looking for.  I also joined the organization to make friends and for the training and for what it would look like on a resume’.  I’m not going to lie.  However, my first reason for joining was to be of service.  That was *my* answer.

As I continued reading, I found this quote about organizations: “The service organizations so many of us work for have an investment in collective self-image.  Reputations, budgets, relationships in the community, need to be protected and promoted.  By building and investing in formal helping institutions we often end up creating distances between who we think we are and those we’d like to serve.”  It’s this self-image that imprisons us as Helpers…rather than being helpful.

For me, I have found that in the organization I belong to, the “image” of the organization is so important that I believe we are afraid to get dirty.  We want to help as long as it feels and is politically correct.  After all, if we offend someone, we might lose funding or support.  However, I believe that the people we strive to help are rarely put together in nice neat packages that are politically correct.  In behaving this way, and in making these choices, we continue to separate ourselves from those we strive to help.

Another great quote from this book is from the philosopher Gurdjieff, “If we wish to escape from prison, the first thing we must acknowledge is that we ARE in prison.”  We can’t be helpful if we are in prison; if we are bound up by shackles of what others might think of us, we can not be helpful.  And it is for this reason, I have chosen to walk away from this organization.  I have learned alot from them, and I am totally grateful.  But I don’t do well in prisons, and I have found that there are many other places where I can inspire young women to be strong and independent.  This may mean joining another organization which may have some of the same issues; I don’t know.  I won’t know till I get there.  But one thing I have learned, is that if I don’t try, I’ll never grow : ).

This chapter also discusses the feeling of helplessness.  Until we know the feeling and sit in the acceptance of helplessness we will not be willing to accept help.  Until we can accept help ourselves, we will be unable to GIVE help and be helpful.  That is a pretty profound lesson.  As a “super mom”, I have been guilty of not allowing others to help me.  As a culture, we teach independence.  Our national holiday in the USA is INDEPENDENCE DAY!  But we need the community…..It’s okay to accept help graciously.  In doing so, we open ourselves up for such great learnings.  “Help has become a collaboration.  In this collaboration we see just how much we ourselves have to offer: our own perseverance, honesty, openness, gratitude humor.  And we may be amazed to find out how hungry people are for these qualities.”

I will end this blog entry with this quote:

“The challenge, then, the opportunity really, is to accept the roles in order to cut through them, and to cut through them in order to be able to participate in them without entrapment.”…..”it’s a chance to take on form in order to liberate one another from it.  This is the true work of a conscious human birth.  This is what we’re all here to do.”

Here’s to breaking out of prison!!!!

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