Listening as Surrender

If I surrender
to what you’re saying,
if I take a listening role
while you’re talking,
I take in what you are saying.
I receive.
There is such energy in receiving.

—Marion Woodman

 

Today’s reflection is in exploration into the idea of deep listening as surrender.

If we’re honest with ourselves, what often passes for “listening” is a full, active mind doing one (or more) of the following:

  • Formulating a response to what the speaker is saying
  • Compiling mental bullet points about what’s inaccurate or “wrong” about what the speaker is saying
  • Judging
  • Silently correcting or contradicting the speaker

Have you ever done any of these? Of course, we all have!

What does it mean to take a listening role? Taking a listening role means staying tuned in to the body and the present moment. It means receiving the other with bare attention — without formulating a response, or feeling a strong urge to correct or contradict.

The ability to listen in this way is a north star, and most of us are not able to do it consistently. However, it is a worthy aspiration.

A therapist I worked with when I was an intern during graduate school described this kind of listening as “putting on her ‘reporter’s’ hat.” For her, it was about pretending that she was a reporter — simply recording the facts as she heard them.

The facts are actual words said, along with what you observe with your senses — preferably with minimal interpretation.

For example, if you’re listening to someone and you begin to notice that their face is becoming flushed or red, it’s preferable to mentally record, “flushed and red face,” rather than recording “angry” or “embarrassed” — your perceptions or thoughts about the facts.

This is hard to do!

Your interpretations may be correct . . . . and they may not. If you attach to your perceptions rather than staying with the facts, your response will be based on your interpretation rather than what you actually observed.

You’ll notice that when you’re listening you will have thoughts, emotions, and even body sensations. Does listening as surrender mean you don’t pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and sensations? Absolutely not.

A skillful listener knows how to simultaneously receive the spoken words and observations while also paying attention to her internal responses.

She can reflect on her internal responses later as she processes and digests what she heard.

And if you want to take this reflection even deeper, ask yourself, “Do I truly listen to myself?”

When you do, you will receive new awarenesses, solutions, resolutions, and insight. The kind of surrender required for self-listening is a willingness to observe your authentic truth.

What does, “there is such energy in receiving,” mean when it comes to listening as surrender?

The first time I read this, an immediate answer didn’t come to mind. But I did have an immediate answer when I put myself in the role of the speaker — knowing that my words were truly received by another. Isn’t that what we all long for?

Because most listening lacks the qualities of surrender and receiving, conversations often consist of two speakers talking at one another, with neither being in the receiving role.

When there are two speakers and no listeners, there is an absence of energy, except the negative energy that is generated from arguing, judging, controlling, or shaming the other person when they think or feel differently than we would like them to.

Receiving another’s words as active surrender creates connection, understanding, compassion, insight, and acceptance.

Invitations for reflection, exploration, and action:

  • How can I more fully surrender when listening to another?
  • How can I more fully receive (listen) to my own words and truth?
  • Reflecting on a time in the past when you were able to receive the words of another person, what kind of energy did your receiving create?
  • What do you think would happen if you were to more fully surrender when listening to the people you love most?

 


© Vicki Tidwell Palmer (2021)

Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman’s Body and Soul (©1998)
By Marion Woodman and Jill Mellick
(Reprinted with permission)

*This post is from the Coming Home to You Series. Visit this page for the backstory of the CHTY Series.

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The deepest experience of the creator is feminine, for it is experience of receiving and bearing.”

Rainer Maria Rilke