Deep Listening and Loving Speech Are Meditation Practices

Deep listening and loving speech are the foundations of our meditation practices at the Mindfulness in Healing support group that takes place at the Pine Street Clinic in San Anselmo, California every Wednesday night. The group has been meeting now for more than three years.

Last night, we had a especially touching gathering.

After spending quit a bit of time with a woman who is living with cancer and her spouse, we focused our attention on another woman. She stated that she comes to the group primarily for the chance to do meditation practices with us.

In past sessions, she has been quite talkative and shared a lot about what is going on in her life.

Last night, like the rest of us, she was deeply moved by the situation of the woman dealing with cancer and her husband.

While all of this conversation was going on, it suddenly struck me how indeed deep listening and loving speech are meditation practices.

When we practice loving speech, we are being true to ourselves. We are living happily in the present moment and giving our love and full attention to whomever is speaking.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh gave a talk about this back in 1997 in Plum Village France. The title of the talk was The Discourse on Love. This talk was about the Buddha’s teachings on love.

 Deep Listening and Loving Speech Are Meditation Practices

In the early morning, when you do sitting meditation, why don’t you use that time to look deeply in order to see that: “I decided to make this day wonderful, I decided to make this very day a great gift for my life and for the life of others around me.”

“Those who want to attain peace, should practice being upright, humble and capable of using loving speech. “If we are disturbed, we cannot have peace and we cannot have joy. Our mind is thirsty, we feel we lack something. We are agitated by anger, hatred thoughts of revenge. We have no peace, no joy, we never feel happy. Even those who have a lot of material possessions and money in their bank account have no peace and joy and they are very unhappy.

Peace and joy are the two basic elements for our happiness. Peace means not to be disturbed, not agitated in our mind. Those who want to attain peace have to learn the art of being straightforward. This means not to make insinuations, not go about things in a devious way. But we must use loving speech. We are straightforward, but we use loving speech.

The other aspect of love is deep listening. Deep listening is the practice of paying full attention to the person who is speaking.

When we pay close attention to what is going on in the conversation, we forget the past. We don’t worry about the future. We are totally present for the other person and in the present moment.

When this happens in a group setting such as Mindfulness in Healing, you can really sense the love and compassion in the room.

The atmosphere in the Pine Street Clinic naturally supports such a spirit. The birds fluttering and chirping in the large cage in front of the clinic helps. The healing artifacts, mostly of Chinese or Buddhist origin, make you feel comfortable the moment you walk in. The herbs and supplements in the cabinets and apothecary jars across from where we sit even seem to have an effect on us.

Here is another quote from the same talk about deep listening.

Love is the most beautiful thing in this life. And love helps us to have an open mind and to understand better. Love is the most beautiful gift. Our mindfulness is like a mirror. The mirror reflects our body and our mind. In the early morning when you wake up, you look at the mirror and you see your body, and you smile so that your face looks more relaxed. The most beautiful thing of life is love, and an open mind, large view. Try to be open, to listen and to understand more deeply. Those are the most beautiful things of life: understanding, an open mind, to listen and to understand more deeply. We look at things with an open mind, with attention and with a compassionate view. So I advise you in the early morning when you wake up to look in the mirror and smile. Smile to your face, smile to life. And also learn to love yourself and love people around you with an open mind, with deep listening and deep understanding. So you look at somebody with forgiveness, with inclusiveness, but not in observation and discrimination. Look like a mother looks on her fragile little baby.

Practicing deep listening and loving speech are not terribly difficult under the conditions of our group.

Practicing at home can be another matter, especially when we are rushing to get the children off to school or leaving for work.

In these cases, the simple solution offered by Thich Nhat Hanh is simply to agree to a time when things in the house are relatively quiet and a loving discussion can take place.

When that time arrives, let everything else go and be there for each other. Turn off the TV. Do not answer the phone. Simply be together practicing deep listening and loving speech.

Please complete this statement. I commit to practicing deep listening and loving speech with _________.


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