5 Tips for Being a Great Listener

(c) 2009 – 2015

Hi there! It feels great to be writing another post as the blog is now settling into a rhythm. Today, I have coworkers, clients, and friends to thank for helping me grow as a person simply by helping me come to understand the art of listening. For me, a typical day of work involves seeing anywhere from 5-10 clients who are making important changes in their lives. Whether I’m conducting live personal hypnosis sessions or simply coaching clients in setting and achieving goals, it is crucial to be an active listener. My job is not to solve problems for anyone, but to facilitate growth by helping clients draw their own conclusions — the conclusions that are best for him/her and that best fit his/her lifestyle. If you are still reading, you are probably wondering: How can I be a better listener? 

1. Availability. Reliable friends, successful coaches and therapists, and effective leaders have all figured out the importance of being there when they are needed the most. Of course, this doesn’t mean leaving your schedule open for every subtle whimper. Being available does not mean you should open yourself up to being someone else’s doormat; but, reaching out to someone in need by simply checking in once in awhile shows how much you care.

2. Non-Attachment. Without getting emotionally wrapped up in someone else’s story, a great listener is able to stay focused on his/her own journey following even a deeply moving — or potentially draining — interaction. Great listeners understand how to create balance between sharing emotions while maintaining his/her own direction. In other words — don’t make someone else’s situation so important that you neglect your own personal responsibilities. I spoke with a client today who has found that, in cultivating a mindful approach to listening, she was able to walk away from a negative interaction without taking any negativity as she went on to attend her scheduled yoga class that evening. “What I’ve learned through this,” she explained, “is that I don’t have to let another person’s negative attitude influence my own state of well-being, that what’s theirs is theirs, not mine.”

3. Succinct Suggestions, Relevant Opinions, Great Questions. Only offer advice if it is asked of you, and keep it brief. No one has the right suggestion for someone else’s situation; advice is subjective. And it’s great to be honest, but keeping your opinions to a minimum helps keep the focus on the person’s situation. Asking thought-provoking questions rather than offering solutions is often the best way to keep the focus on the person and their unique situation.

4. Dare to Not Compare (Your Life to Theirs). Honor your integrity by sharing an outside perspective, but also honor the uniqueness of the other person’s position. Rather than comparing your own personal experiences to theirs, make them feel that their situation is special when the news is great, and help them understand that they are not alone by sharing others’ stories (not yours) when the news is not-so-great.

5. Being Trustworthy. Confidentiality is very important to someone who discloses personal information to you, so keeping it between the two of you is paramount in being a great listener. If you choose to open yourself to someone and it compromises the integrity of your relationship with another person, suggest they open up to someone else, or commit to keeping the conversation between the two of you. As we mature, it comes without question to keep another person’s personal matters private.

These are my own suggestions, and certainly not the only ones floating around. If you have your own tips for being a great listener, please share them in a comment below! Thanks for reading : )

Dreams, Alive.

© Amy Parrish 2013

Mesmerized, having undergone a recent awakening (inspired by Michael Stone) that maintaining a strong focus on inner work does not have to suggest we detach ourselves from reality, nor should inner work be sought as a means to solely transcend reality. I was stuck on this point last year. A close friend and I spent countless hours in conversation discussing detachment for the purpose of reintegration. She actually posted a blog on Broadway World about this — you can click here to see her post and thoughtful insights into that spawned her own personal revolution.

We can’t stop at transcendence. Meditation, yoga (or other physical movement, connection to the body), spiritual connection, days or weeks spent in nature… what is the purpose of it all? To simply transcend it only separates us; to stop at transcendence is ultimately denial towards what we were born into. To live in a perfect world full of bliss cannot move us forward into growth. Yes, it is important to step away from ourselves and even from the world at times, but prolonged detachment stifles our personal and interpersonal evolution.

In the book “Into the Wild,” by John Krakauer, we see the vibrant journey of adventurer Christopher McCandless come to an end when he realizes the relationships he has neglected in his time of solitude. John Muir, a Scottish-American environmentalist, fought to preserve the connection between self and nature. Like McCandless, Muir spent much time in solitude fostering this connection to the wilderness and opening up to the spiritual self. Many spiritualists throughout history focus intently on transcendence. Yet we cannot shut out the world around us and expect to be true to ourselves. This puts relationships at risk, causes communication skills to  suffer, and distorts our worldview. Our place here includes interaction with others, some of which may not share our worldview.

So when we detach, if we do so with reintegration in mind, that is — coming back with something to offer — we foster growth within ourselves as well as among others. We open ourselves to what has enlightened others. We humble ourselves to the lessons of all. So may we thrive within, so that we might thrive throughout. May we participate in the world. It is through our relationships and our shared experiences that we live fuller and more meaningful lives.

<3

What do you stand for?

This year, EscapeToLight.com will not feature any work with photography clientele, and I’m working to remove / rearrange my former photography portfolio to an entirely new location.  A separate journey, and one that is now more personal than it once was. Any work I choose to share in the future will be shared at the following location:

michelledawn.me

I will still share personal photos I have taken on escapetolight.com that complement the blog subject matter : )

I’m very inspired by Vivian Maier and her approach to photography. She had such a profound respect toward the nature of photography, the intimacy of creating, and (from what I observe) her intention being simply to connect with her subjects.

Non-attachment includes releasing yourself from parts that no longer serve the purpose you seek in life. To anyone changing directions, my advice to you is to take all the time you need, and do what feels right… and do whatever it takes to be certain about what feels right! The most difficult part of transformation is being completely honest with yourself, where you stand with your values, and how you want to prioritize those values. It has certainly taken longer than expected for me! This has taught me a lot about being okay with not knowing what to expect. And of course, aspects of ourselves that we aren’t particularly fond of will surface. But all in the name of moving forward and maturing into the type of individual who thinks and acts in a way you (and others) can be confident in.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson

Boundedness Gives Shape to Life

“Boundedness gives shape to life. Self-centeredness gives the illusion of freedom.”  – Arthur Dobrin, Psychology Today (psychologytoday.com)

 

Going into the new year with discipline, non-attachment, and total openness in mind. Life presents the challenge of finding balance between freedom and duty. Something yoga teaches is the concept of present awareness; as you move the body, connecting your movement with the breath, you find yourself wholly in the present moment. This is the perfect message from Michael Stone going into 2015. Everything from the food we offer the body, to our perceptions of others, to our daily tasks, to the thoughts we choose to give power… may we be

“totally engaged with our lives, [attentive to] the aliveness of present experience, [attentive to] your action in the world, and [attentive to] the effects of your actions.” — Michael Stone

Have a wonderful new year!:)

To Sum up the Year.

Blue Ridge Mountains at Devil’s Courthouse.

 

Life Offline. . .

Description: Anonymous, aware. We must build from the inside. We can only know the inside if we continue to listen, consistently. Only small fragments left now, of a previous online persona that now feels more like a dream passed. Much more comfortable these days, situated safely and quietly. Pursuing what passions live on the inside. “Out of the loop” but very much alive, functioning, and well. The joy of motherhood intensifying as my child matures. The joy of inner growth coming to fruition. The blessings that greet me with each new face met. The number of individuals on the planet who simply long for the same things as myself, and likely you as well. The peculiar way we are always right where we need to be. Eyes opening, heart opening, mind opening. The ability to give love freely. Beautiful things surrounding every moment that deserve to be acknowledged. Striving.

Today I met the most beautiful man at the library. He was perhaps in his 60′s, accompanied by a young chaperon, probably in her late 20′s. He was mentally underdeveloped/slow, if you base that on what society considers “normal”. And he received so much joy from reading a book about animals. The pair shared some details about their connection with me. We shared laughter. And we exchanged strong, positive energy. I wondered what it must be like to go through life needing a chaperon. But I also wondered what it would feel like to not know life as we now know it. He sat there enjoying the book and its photos while most others typed away on laptops, or texted on phones. This man was so open, joyful, gentle, and kind.

The human soul, alive, and offline. Tonight I sit in deep contemplation and gratitude. If a tree fell in the forest, would it make a sound? Well, it would to those around. Just because it isn’t happening online doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Life is good, as I write while listening to a pregnant, glowing neighbor strumming and singing.

Asking for $ On Social Networks to Buy ‘Stuff’

Since I believe in Karma, I realized this morning (after directly witnessing it) that seeing people ask for money on social networks — to buy ‘stuff’ — is a major disappointment. It stirred a contemplation in me that was deep enough to make one more post before continuing my blogging hiatus.

In 2012 I had more than $9K of gear stolen from me, and I knew this meant something significant. At first I was shocked and numb, but as the dust settled I knew it was time to take a closer look at what had happened. I could either spend the time sulking and pining away at lost items (yuck), or I could take a long hard look at the circumstances surrounding me.

At the time, I had just moved to the city and was head-first into a huge life transformation, so after about a week of contemplation, it dawned on me: I didn’t actually need any of the gear I had been placing so much value on. Sure, I’d worked hard at earning those items. But it wasn’t going to kill me. It was just part of what I had to learn from, and it was a lesson that shaped and molded me bigtime. First, it taught me to pay close attention to where I park the car. Secondly, it taught me not to get attached to material possessions. It was cold and hard and did feel like a loss at the time, but that has stuck with me and forced me to grow. I’m happy to have a disposable camera so long as I can still make pictures. The most important thing that getting robbed taught me was: acceptance. That’s just how things were going to be, and if I wanted to get the gear back, I could decide whether or not it was worth working to buy all over again. And what I found was it was the last thing I would ever want to spend another $9K on in this life. No thank you. Not even $1K.

Right now, a coworker is struggling to raise money for her handicapped grandson. They need a wheelchair-accessible van because he is getting too heavy for his momma to carry him. This is a cause worth asking money for, and a cause worth donating to.

Asking for donations to support a hobby, or personal travel plans — these are things that should be earned.  I believe that everything happens because of resonance — energy and frequencies flowing and affecting everything based on the law of cause and effect. So if something is stolen (or someone harmed), it means there is a deeper lesson to be experienced for everyone involved — the thief (or the one doing harm), and the person being harmed.

It’s all resonance. And what what we’re working to create is harmony.

<3

Less.

“I have such respect for expressions of life that are out there, [especially] if you have acceptance that “death” is not the end. I was afraid to die unfulfilled. To think that I would go like that was just too much. My soul is meant to save the world… or something. That hope has lived in me since childhood, and stays with me even today.”

I was scribbling notes during a phone conversation earlier, the above is quoted from one of my dearest friends. Someone for whom I have the utmost respect toward in this life. This person is also going through a nightmare, yet feels this beautiful hope so deeply.

We were speaking about subatomic matter and the range of the scale of all things that exist. Some matter is so small we cannot see it, and some matter has bonded together in forms so large we cannot conceive of it. Then, there is all of the space between… and the “time” that passes without end. The interconnectedness. It is so amazing that we are here. Alive. On a planet. Surrounded by infinite possibilities.

When we allow our “wants” to shrink, oh how the world changes. We need so very little. I believe there is truly a movement happening, and people are waking up to this. Paying attention. Preparedness. Letting go of attachments. Despite the convenience and wonder of the Information Age, the things in our personal lives are best shared with people who understand who we are. Now that I’m fully out of the social networking loop, I look back and think: wow, I can’t believe I ever spent so much time posting to those things :/ People ask me if I miss it, and the answer is a quick: heck no! Not for a single second.

And it is so important to love ourselves! Wow. When we give ourselves time and attention, to be kind and caring toward ourselves… this is when magic starts happening. This is when it comes naturally to desire fresh, living foods that support the body. This is when we start to truly feel the connection between the mind+body+spirit… to enjoy that connection, and allow it to guide us in our connections with others. And most importantly, when we start to create harmony in our lives, we reconnect with the Earth, Universe, and beyond… we catch a glimpse of the source of it all and feel it through and through, to the very core.

I had hoped to make a full post about CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] before my son and I leave for our camping trip next week. I will briefly say, that the farm I support is called Paige’s Produce, for anyone looking to join a CSA sharing arrangement. They have fruit, vegetables/herbs, and even flower shares! Planned on posting a more thoughtful post/essay on CSA last week, but some things have come up that deserve attention. And as I write, I’m feeling as if perhaps tonight actually marks an earlier-than-intended start of my break from blogging, as it is truly a time of “going with the flow.” Afterall, the planets are in rare form this month. Over the next month and a half I’ll be traveling a bit… and I know this will be an ideal time to begin this spiritual cleanse. Pen and paper. South to the mountains, Northwest for photography work in Chicago, and exploring Milwaukee by my lonesome before I return home. So I guess this is “see ya soon”.

Please enjoy the rest of your summer! And if you have children starting school soon… all the best to them and to you, it’s always such an adjustment for everyone. Exciting new time for kids this time every year. It’s important to cultivate patience and be a good listener for them during the transition to a new grade level, adjusting to a new classroom environment(s), new teachers. The workload becomes more challenging. They’ll be going through a lot. So lots of affection, open communication, and emotional support are helpful. Talking with other parents is also very helpful! Being sensitive toward any of their emotions is really important, even if you don’t understand them right away. I used to get pretty frustrated with “attitudes” or certain behaviors, or allow them to affect me,. What I’ve learned is: it usually passes quickly and it’s always better to say something insightful rather than to scold or punish. They’ll come around. And they’ll remember you as a good listener who used thoughtful, mature language when they become adults. Or at least… that’s the hope!:)

 

xo

Michelle (Aurora)

Late April – July

This year has called for quite a bit of extra time in the forest. Although I’ve taken hundreds of photos during these quiet times, I haven’t really shared any. These are just a few of my favorites from the last few months. Streams, deep-forests and lush rolling hills, caves, waterfalls, and cave pools. True love.

Free.

You Can Say No

As life’s journey continues, this process is gradual and ongoing. I’m beginning to feel the permanency of letting go. I can only hope this will be an example for my child as he grows into an adult, and I’m encouraged by friends who are also making these choices to live a simpler, more authentic life that is closer to what nature intended. A few years ago, I felt consumed by pressure to “succeed” — at least, by the mainstream concept of “success”. I caught myself mindlessly participating in consumer culture and spent several months mourning as I let go of patterns, behaviors, and relationships that simply could not continue if I was going to make the changes I knew were needed to reconnect with myself, reconstruct my system of beliefs, and get more in tune with nature’s design. Before I became a professional photographer, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I took 2 years of college, then changed directions and graduated from cosmetology school. About a year later, I quit working at the salon I was in when the owner tried to convince me that it would be worth it to work an extra two days per week, away from my son, because “Michelle, you see how much money we make here.”

Money Above Humanity?

I saw someone holding a sign the other day that read “Humanity Before Money.” It really got me thinking that collectively, society is driven by making money and contributing to society’s current infrastructure… because we feel it is the only choice. I had fallen into that trap for a little while, even after quitting my job at the salon to pursue my passion for photography. I was listening to experts talking about how to maximize profits and studying marketing strategies out the wazoo. This is just a part of “getting your name out there.”

“NEVER WORK FOR FREE UNDER THE GUISE OF GOOD EXPOSURE.” — those icky words that I had seen on a meme a few years back still echo in my brain. I can even remember raising my prices and feeling good about the decision! Not what I stand for now, and not what I stood for before then. It’s easy to get caught up in what society says we should do, but there are other options. Of course as a single mother, I had to provide for us, but I turned to the current economic paradigm to provide for us rather than exploring other options. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that my passion for photography far exceeded any need to gain exposure for it (pun intended). I guess you have to go through these things to discover who you want to be, how you want to live, and how you can truly serve others in this beautiful life.

Rearranging Your Life Takes Time

It’s emotional, takes a ton of planning ahead, and forces you to be completely honest with yourself and to consider what is most important to you. It forces you to consider where you want your money to go. It forces you to consider what you’re putting into your body, how you’re treating the Earth, and what role you want to play in the community. But it is worth every second!