Listening for the Heart


“When I was younger, I thought listening was just about learning the contents of someone’s mind. I’d always try to finish their thoughts, just to show them that I knew what they were thinking. As I got older, I learned to listen better. I realized that by trying to anticipate their mind, I was ignoring their heart.”

My friend Karen posted the above quote on my Facebook wall yesterday. It came from the Humans from New York Facebook page. I’m guessing they take pictures of ordinary people in New York and quote them. It’s such a beautiful sentiment that I wanted to explore it. It makes me think of that statement that I hear over and over again – “The longest distance in the world is from the head to the heart.”

I lived in my head almost exclusively until I was about 35. I never even thought about following my heart. I thought that the key to life was to do those things that I was supposed to do to pull my life together. You know the drill… get the right job …. make enough money … know the right people … live in a nice house …. marry the right man. When I was 35, I was very, very unhappy. My marriage was dead. I loved my husband as a person, but we were basically roommates, and, he traveled all the time, so we weren’t even very good roommates. I was unhappy in my job, and the company I was working for was restructuring. My position was in jeopardy. I didn’t have many friends, and I wasn’t very close to the ones I had. My life wasn’t full of chaos or anything, I was just not very happy. I got a massage for my birthday that year in Sedona. The massage therapist asked me about my life, and I opened up about how dead I felt. She told me that I needed to follow my heart. I had no clue what she meant by that, but I thought I should explore it.

That was in January, and, by that May, I separated from my husband. I applied for a new job and got it. I don’t know what happened, but I think that my heart just cracked open, and I could no longer pay more attention to my head than my heart. If it took me that long to pay attention to my own heart, it’s not surprising to me that I would not be listening to hear another person’s heart. I had to realize from my own experience, that what’s in the heart of a person is what is important. What’s in a person’s heart is what’s connected to their soul. We all need our heads to understand logic and make wise decisions, but, oh, how we need our hearts to be fulfilled spiritually. The intellect is built by external structures and paradigms and is very important. But, the heart blooms from within. It contains the very essence of a person, and I believe it’s what makes us unique and special.

Listening is very difficult. In my field of training and development, we are always trying to teach employees and managers to be better listeners. It’s a difficult skill that almost everyone believes they do well, but almost everyone does horribly. A good listener is in the eye of the beholder. I struggle with it all the time. I have to remind myself that I am listening not for information but to connect with another person. My goal used to be to listen for information. That’s what I thought was important. But, once I really grasped that my being here and being in connection with others was a spiritual interaction, information became much less important. Now, I ask more questions. I allow for silence. The questions I ask are about feelings instead of thoughts. I try to be curious and open. I’ve also learned that unless someone asks for advice, I need to just keep my mouth shut.

I am probably not very good at listening for someone’s heart most of the time. It’s hard to get in that space because it’s very intimate for the listener as well as the speaker. I know, for myself, my head ruled for most of my life, but, in the end, my heart had to crack open and influence my life. I didn’t choose it. My internal desires just finally overpowered my willpower, and I couldn’t look back. If I can be a sounding board for another person’s heart and provide space for them to explore their own desires, maybe they won’t take as long to travel that distance from their head to their heart. People are absolutely fascinating when they connect with their heart. I can be talking to someone who is boring me to tears while they are telling me all of the information that is in their head or what they did during the day, but when they start telling me about something that they love or how they feel, their eyes light up. Their energy increases. You can see it in their countenance. They go from boring to engaging in a matter of seconds. I can tell that they just made that long trip from their head to their heart. The funny thing is that it’s a long distance, but once you decide you’re going there, you can get there in a nanosecond. For me, I just had to decide it was worth the trip.

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