Every fall we hold a retreat for the volunteer listeners of the LP. We’ve referred to these annual events as our Retreat/Advance. This year we held our event online and while we missed being face to face with one another, the time we spent together was as rich as it always is.
During the Retreat half of our event on Saturday, there was a particular kind of humility – humble and hopeful at the same time. Our prompt for the Retreat check in was: What have I learned about listening both through the Listening Post and through this time of Covid (The Great Pause)?
So many volunteers mentioned the practice of listening as one that takes time and energy and is ongoing. We never really ‘get it,’ as in we’re never done learning how to listen deeply. There was a simple and palpable depth to the recognition that “Advice is superfluous.” That quotation comes from the very first volunteer who shared on Saturday. It was the first words uttered in response to our prompt.
It is interesting to me that any volunteer, myself included, can rattle off the basics of listening at the LP – we don’t advise, counsel or even suggest what our guests should do, nor do we cheer lead. And yet the beautiful humility and compassion of reflecting on those basics… it was as if we’re discovering listening anew. Much of what was shared in response to the prompt for our check in did shine a light on a gift of this very undesirable time of Covid 19. Left in a position of social distancing and resulting isolation, many of us have sought out contact with family and with dear friends over the phone or via Zoom. And as much as we can complain that we miss being face to face with people, when that was the norm we may not have actually touched down deeply enough with our friends and family. The quotations below are a small sample of what LP volunteers’ shared during the Retreat half of our event:
“This is a quiet time, interactions with people are deeper.”
“Zooming with my sisters… we’re connecting in a much deeper way. When they tell a story, I’m learning so much about them, feel so close to them, so much closer… I wish we could Zoom more often.”
“My family is more willing to talk with me because I’m listening, not giving advice.”
“We can listen. Something is in the air, a compassionate trust that has taken years of practice…‘maybe I understand where another is coming from.’”
“He doesn’t need me to ask a question & follow up with bullet points. He needs someone who knows him. He just needs me to listen and it has been a big gift to him. The LP reminds me of that.”
“I’m not anticipating how I will respond. That is a skill that takes a lot of practice.”
“The power of people being able to tell their personal stories puts them to rest.”
“I can’t remember the details, but I needed someone to listen to me & I got cut off. I remember the feeling of being cut off. This is why I listen. People need to be heard. It’s not important what it is that needs to come out… [people need to] lay back and let it flow.”
“I catch myself – it is a ‘checking practice.’ Am I thinking of what I want to say? Or am I just there… are they able to breathe in their soul?”
“The energy being with this group gives me an energy of hope. Knowing you are out there listening, gives me energy of hope.”
And more than one volunteer uttered these words, “Listening has changed my life.”
There is so much more to share, I am not able to cover it all here. I will, though, write our next newsletter on the second half of our gathering, the Advance. Just to whet your appetite, this was the prompt for our listening practice breakout groups: As we go deeper into this time of Covid 19, what are your hopes for the Listening Post in this next year?
with simple humility and true hope,
Avie & Susan