Archive for the 'listening' Category


November 6, 2014

When I read something that suggests that I am falling short in my attitude and behavior, I can sometimes see clearly that the frontal approach of trying to change my attitude and behavior directly (and conform to what is being suggested) is not going to produce what’s needed.

Instead, I need to address a broader issue, and if I do so, then more helpful attitude and behavior will follow.

“Fake it until you make it” has never seemed to me a preferable method, I prefer to put in backfill and arrive at the surface after having built a foundation one step at a time.

This approach is also helpful if my task is not to arrive at the final goal but to go back and fill a missing stage of development.  (I think if one believes in reincarnation, this concept makes more sense.)

So I check in with my guidance:  I bring only my willingness, I open up my heart, and I listen (and I don’t mean “people pleasing”).

I’ve heard other women lament having given away their power and needing to reclaim it.  That is a Scylla I am aware of, as I am also aware of the Charybdis of following my own ego-driven ideas.

What I am called to do may also not look like what others recognize as being helpful in and of itself.  I think that makes sense if what one is doing is filling in a missing piece that isn’t very pretty and is an intermediate (ugly duckling?) stage in something larger.  That missing piece may involve learning to hear, trust, and follow one’s own inner guidance, for example, and not privileging another human being’s teachings over one’s own understanding.  One can be not only too rich and too thin but also too deferential to human guides, it seems to me.  Of course, there is a difference between oppositional defiance and independence as a part of personal development.

Sometimes what I need to do is to strengthen my spiritual practice;  that will fill in what needs filling in and attitude and behavior will organically change as a consequence.


Selection bias

September 8, 2014

I was reading about this in the context of precognition — as an alternative explanation for what some people interpret as precognition.

It got me wondering why the subset of what we could notice that we do notice — what we select with bias — isn’t significant.  It seems to me the selection bias argument is only a refutation of precognition if the process of selection is seen as being driven by something random or meaningless or self-referential.

It doesn’t seem to me that the selection process necessarily is random or meaningless, or not driven by something significant.

Then the argument seems to me to go back to the issue of the earlier stage, of what drives us to notice one thing and not another.


August 24, 2014

While I was visiting my mother, I had to decide what day to leave.  I had come down a day later than planned, an idea that originated with my mother, due mostly to the weather, and I needed to decide whether to go back home on my originally planned day of departure or to extend the trip one day.

We had accomplished much of what we had planned — banking business; open house; sorting, shredding or keeping files that had been in the basement, sorting, folding, donating or keeping the contents of the linen closet …

I couldn’t tell whether we were done for this trip.  So I took a walk late one afternoon.  And what percolated up for me was to call my son to see how he was faring at home and to pack my car, to the extent possible at that point, with what I thought I needed to bring back with me, to see if it would fit (I drive a Ford Focus sedan).

And once I did those two things, it became clear to me to stay the extra day.  And when I did that, I found myself doing some work that hadn’t before occurred to me, including getting things off closet shelves, sorting them for donation, trash, or keeping — because I wasn’t sure who else would be able to get them down, given the limitations of the help my mother engages.  This project had not been apparent to me, but by clearing away the clutter in my mind about my decision (about when to leave), I was able to make that decision, and, subsequently, to see the next right thing I was being called to do.  Again, as in my previous post, this occurred in a mundane context, but I am here to say that my process works, at least for me.

I will add as a note here that my mother received three wonderful letters from the university that collected and received her donation of CDs, records, and books.  My mother read them to me over the phone last night.  Not only were we amazed by the number of CDs (over 4,000) and records and books (over 600 and 800, respectively), but we found it heartwarming that the writers were so appreciative of the collections.  I was also especially happy to hear that the writers mentioned that the CDs would be quite helpful in the teaching and preparation of music students.  That’s the sort of thing I had been hoping for — that the collections would go where they were appreciated for what they were and would be used in a way that allows them to reach their potential to help others.


August 22, 2014

I came back from visiting my mother, with a lot of family belongings.  My mother is downsizing in preparation for her move to Massachusetts, to a one-bedroom apartment.  My sister apparently had a negative response to taking any of the belongings, except for a napkin ring I helped my mother mail her.

So I was not sure where in my house to put the items I brought back.  I threw the problem out there to the universe, turned it over and asked for help.  And I got help, found I could remove without difficulty a few objects from my china cabinet in my front room, for example, rearrange a few more, and have a beautiful space for the family items.

What I removed is basically a collection I can pack up into a box as a set, maybe to give to someone else.

And for the other group of family belongings I brought back, I opened the trunk in my dining room and realized there were also items there I was fine with packing up and possibly de-accessioning, and that doing so would produce adequate room for these things I had brought back with me from New Jersey.

It may be a trivial problem, finding a suitable place to put family belongings, but that feeling of going from “I have no idea what to do” to “Oh, this works” is priceless nonetheless.


Phone call

April 10, 2014

I wrote a post here a few weeks ago about how someone had not listened to me and I eventually expressed my dissatisfaction and we had a falling out.

Well, they called me yesterday.  Their proposed solution is they will be less insistent on having their way in the future.

I told them I appreciated the call.

And that’s probably where I see any improvement in the matter, that they reached out.

Because it does me no great respect to just have me have my way next time (which is their proposal);  I like a collaborative effort, but I want that effort to take me and my wishes into account as much as the other person’s.  Saying we’ll just do it my way doesn’t address that.  It just suggests to me they want something else from me, my business.

Yesterday I had something similar with a family member’s lawyer.

The document the lawyer prepared contained a material mistake, I called it to their attention, they told me I was free to edit the document.  I wanted them to do the editing.

I didn’t find their position respectful, either.  They yelled at me for being persistent, gave me the “I’m wonderful and have done everything right” speech, and threatened to no longer provide service at all.  This is a law firm this family member has used for over 50 years, they’ve been there less than a year.  The net result is that the family member will have a sizable delay before they can receive their sizable refund from the IRS.  We said we would revisit the issue in about two weeks, when the lawyer will be back and I will be back, but there’s an accountant involved (because someone else in the law firm mistakenly told me to have an accountant prepare the tax form at issue, which is not the tax form with the refund, but the accountant is holding everything up until all the returns are finished), so who knows when this will get done.

What do I take from all this?  That people find new and clever ways to protect themselves and make themselves comfortable at other people’s expense, that the very thing you want from them is the very thing they don’t want to do — collaborate respectfully and with consideration.


Revealing the absence or presence of willingness

March 22, 2014

I was thinking through what purpose a behavioral pattern of mine could possibly serve, and this is what I came up with.

I interact with someone.  Yesterday it was someone making something for me.  We go back and forth on materials and price and design, and then they do something I am not okay with, I protest, I am not heard, we repeat this sequence, I go silent, and then eventually I make my dissatisfaction known more unmistakably.

And then I don’t get compromising even then, I get a speech about the person’s integrity, how they know themselves to be this, that, and the other thing, so their behavior can’t possibly be a contributing factor to my dissatisfaction.

Which explains to me why I went silent during that interval between, on the one hand, protesting, while still trying to work it out, and on the other hand, letting the person know it’s not okay with me, while giving them what they want in the moment and then leaving:  there was nothing I could do that would make the situation work out for both of us.

They turned out, as I think I was surmising, not have willingness to compromise, to work together without friction or excessive self-interest.

Seeing this makes it easier for me to choose whether I want to, as they say, throw good money after bad.

I usually get, in addition to the “It can’t be anything I did, I know myself to be more wonderful than that,” some version of, “It’s your job to rein me in.”

No, it’s not.  It is written nowhere that I know that I have to substitute my energy through feedback for their energy in policing themselves.  It may well be that my unwillingness to take up this cost means the relationship won’t work out, but that’s a separate issue.  It may well be that my expectations are unrealistic, but, again, that goes to whether there will be a relationship, whether there will be subsequent interactions, not whether I am required by some objective standard to behave with them the way they want.  They are free to say and do on their end as they wish, I am free to walk away, instead of pushing back, especially after attempts to gain traction to work things out bilaterally have had no effect.

Yesterday’s episode brought home to me that my sense that the other person is not open to adjustment at their end is not inaccurate, and how the story they tell themselves about themselves makes it so unlikely that that will change.

Which tradition?

January 20, 2014

Richard Rohr talks about delving deep through one’s spiritual tradition, citing the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa as sources.

My sense is that the only bedrock guidelines are, open your heart and listen.  If that process leads to going with a particular current religious tradition, that’s one thing.  But if it leads elsewhere, that’s something else.

So, too, with the notion of the happy mystic Father Rohr has written about.  To me that sounds like a human interpretation, the idea that mystics will give external evidence of happiness.  Maybe the “physics” of being a mystic do necessarily produce what we perceive as happiness, but I am open to the possibility that they don’t, that there are varieties of mystic experience and that the tradition he refers to is just one of many.  To me, the issue is what serves the greater good in a particular situation, what puzzle piece fits.  It’s a logical possibility that a grumpy mystic might.  Not every partially enlightened person fulfills the same function, is doing the same job.  And I’m not sure that the completely enlightened people hang out here, I think to be incarnated we have to accept having some kind of flaw.  Even the happy mystics.

As to what religious tradition has worked for me, in terms of spiritual union, I believe it is a much older one, one which most people no longer use today, and I believe that for me that reflects that I am helping someone from the past resolve an attempted spiritual union that went awry in a complicated way.

Which leads me to a spiritual story.  It’s about someone who thinks they are getting someone else’s dreams.  Today we might think of it in terms of getting someone else’s email and wanting to forward the messages on to the correct recipient, who would know how to respond to them.  It was clear to this second person in the story that the first person was getting her stuff because he had too much of her energy incorporated within him.  If you’re impersonating someone, you get their messages.  Not surprisingly, he didn’t want her to take her energy back, just the messages.  He didn’t understand that it doesn’t work that way.

They interacted, she got the messages, did what they indicated needed to be done, stuff which he didn’t know how to do (and he knew that he didn’t).  Then the universe found a way to keep the problem from recurring.

All the rest was irrelevant detail, in the great scheme of things.  She could see that, even if she didn’t like some of the detail, and eventually she made peace with the fact that he had his own interpretation of what had happened.

For her it was a little like overpaying to recover needed information stored on a stolen computer, a computer that was now in the hands of someone who really thought it was theirs.

No one ever told her she was getting a pleasurable or easy role in the story.  It’s being of service that brings inner peace, not necessarily the particulars of what that service entails.  And within the confines of the story, she complained heartily.  It’s just that she could also see (after the fact) that it was only a spiritual story and that she was being of service by playing her role within it.

Teaching people to listen

October 22, 2013

I was reading Richard Rohr this morning, as in, his Daily Meditation, and I even clicked through to read Mark 16.

What I hear is an attempt to get people to listen.

I don’t disagree with trying to get people to listen.  You just got to make sure they listen to what needs listening to and not get hung up on the teacher or the conduit.  Some people who hear, hear a lot of different things from a lot of different sources.  Psychism is not spirituality, but neither is all spirituality psychism or a solipsistic product of the imagination.  So what or whom we are listening to is an important consideration, as is the consideration of how what we hear is affected by our own flaws.

“And Nature is calling, no one’s listening to her”

October 21, 2013

One of my favorite lines.  It’s from a Jim Croce song, “Railroads and Riverboats.”

And I think it’s largely, if not altogether, true.

Who’s that talking?

May 3, 2013

What do people mean when they say hear God talking to them?  It’s an interesting question, from many angles.  The NYTimes series by T.M. Luhrmann raises it, the piece addressing it receiving the title “Is That God Talking?”

The column seems to assume that what people are hearing either is “God” as God is commonly conceptualized or it is an artifact of human brain activity.

The spiritual realm is not just God in God’s original form, I don’t think.  There are lots of conduits, in fact that’s really what creation is, I think, a beautiful conglomeration of conduits.  This includes material creation.

The spiritual realm is as multifaceted as the material, I think.  There’s lots of stuff to pick up if one turns on one’s CB radio, so to speak.  Discerning the difference between spam and something helpful is a talent.  I think Paul talks about it in the New Testament.  There are helpful voices who are not God but who are pretty good sources for help and guidance nonetheless.  I think the ultimate source for their help is God’s energy, but I think they are able to provide it in a form more accessible to us and without distorting it with too much of their own dross.

So I think it raises a false dilemma to assume that what people are hearing is somehow either self-generated or God.  I think the real questions are whether it comes from a trustworthy source, whether it is helpful.  That’s part of the process of asking for and receiving help — the challenge, if you will, of not getting a “wrong number.”

Who’s out there?  My experience with people who focus on spiritual pursuits is that while there’s an overlap in a lot of conceptualizations, there’s also a lot of variety.  Many people I know talk about spirit guides or a particular spirit guide who helps them, kind of like a sponsor from a 12 Step program.  Some conceptualize angels.  There are also adolescent spirits who make mischief and there are confused ghosts, some of whom can be quite free and pushy with their advice.

I think we can also tap into great reservoirs of helpful perception through connecting with


I got interrupted as I was writing this this morning.  I came back to it this evening, about twelve hours later.  I don’t want to try to recreate what my idea was or to paste some other ending on what I wrote, but I thought I’d at least explain the abruptness of the cut off.