Being a volunteer at the Listening Post requires a level of commitment. When someone asks to become a volunteer, I send them some information about the commitment level that we have found to work best. Most of our volunteers surpass the suggested commitment of serving one shift each month for at least one year. A high number of volunteers serve one shift (some even serve two) each week and have been doing so for years on end.
The purpose of sharing what ‘works best’ with a potential volunteer is not done for the sake of the organization. Not that the organization hasn’t benefit from it. We could boast about our record of service during the 11 years since the LP first opened its doors and we pretty much do boast that we hold the city’s best monthly meeting – well attended, effectively benefitting the health of our organization, and, yes, our meeting is even fun.
That is not the reason why we suggest ‘what works’. The fact that the LP is so healthy and actively serving and rewarding, for volunteers and guests alike, all happens to be the byproduct of making a commitment to practice listening. Serving one shift per month for at least one year… is not for the sake of the LP but for the sake of actually listening.
The commitment level that works best – regular practice over an extended time period – allows for each of us to explore listening itself. Our commitment of time and energy lets us explore a realm of perception. An entire realm of perception.
That might sound overwhelming.
If our goal was to master listening, it would certainly be overwhelming. It would be downright impossible, actually. Our goal, or more gently stated as our aim, is to allow ourselves to practice listening.
Maybe there is room here for a warning about the cultural conditioning that tells us we need to know and master something. Anything, really. As if there is an achievement, a state of worthiness, we’ll all reach when we know enough. Maybe there is even a sense of threat built into that message, like – you better get good at something and achieve something or else…
A culture of mastery leads us to believe things worth pursuing are difficult and hard won. There may be some truth to that. I’m concerned, though, that a culture of mastery actually leads us to believe we are worth nothing if we’re not a master. Not worthy of love or respect. It leads us to live as if we are always under the pressure of being measured to see if we’re good enough. A culture of mastery might even be part of what interferes with listening.
Listening is not difficult. Listening is actually pretty simple. What may be difficult is remembering to listen. The world around is mostly too busy to quiet down and pay attention to this realm of perception. But the perception doesn’t go away (where would it go?). It just may get ignored, overlooked, undervalued. It may be faked, though not very well and at great cost.
To say that, in volunteering at the Listening Post, we commit ourselves to exploring a realm of perception could make it sound philosophical. But the lived experience of listening isn’t a philosophy and doesn’t require mastery. It requires a human being.
To volunteer at the listening post, or to take on a practice of listening independent of any organization, takes time and effort. Not because listening is difficult, but because learning to stop measuring ourselves and others, can be.
as always, my limitless gratitude for your listening heart,