We talked about terrible ordeals. You can call them traumas, or misfortune, or fate, or bad luck, or karma, or demonstrations of the unfairness of life. You can call these painful, devastating events lots of things or you can just listen to them. We listened to each other tonight. It was the most important thing we did. Sure, we offered words of encouragement, words of support, even advice. But it was our listening, our just being present and holding each other’s stories for a time, that counted most.
How often do we get the chance to be listened to? Even if we don’t feel like talking, even if we’re listening to the silence we find ourselves in. If this is how we can get better, feel better, do better, be better, then why have we been bothering with all the other stuff, all the talk, up to now? Anyone can listen. You don’t even have to know what you’re listening for. The power of your silence is proof that you’re just here to be an accepting ear. Words aren't necessary. Being together is what we need.
The opposite of listening can take many forms. When I was in a period of great transition in my life, I listened to a song by Keane at least once a week. It's all about ambition and regret. It’s a bouncy song; you could dance to it if you were in the mood. A lively, zesty dance. Unless you listened to the lyrics. They’re very sad. They’re about someone who listens to the wrong things. All those toxic messages that can lead us astray. This song made me cry every time I heard it. But I kept listening.
One member asked how we can possibly challenge all the negative messages we've heard all our lives. The answer is simple but it's not easy to hear: We do it one message at a time. Whenever we catch ourselves thinking that the little bit of goodness right now in our lives isn't enough, we need to stop. We need to replace that thought with, “This is a good thing that’s happening right now. I choose to appreciate it and build on it.”
Josef Goebbels criticized Great Britain in now-famous 1941 article. He wrote that the “English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.” Now, Goebbels is considered one of the great demons of the 20th Century, but we need to listen to truth no matter where it comes from. He was right about our big lies. And when I say “our,” I mean all of us modern, angst-riddled thinkers who trusted the damaged big people who contaminated our ideas about ourselves out of ignorance and fear. We tell ourselves things that are ridiculous. Things we were taught to repeat, over and over. Things like, “Nothing good ever happens to me,” or “I can never do enough,” or “I have always been like this and I always will be.”
Here is a list of untrue thoughts you've been programmed to think. Try and get in the habit of catching yourself in these lies and countermanding them. You know the opposite is true, replace that old, worn-out, destructive habit with this new one. The healthy habit of listening to what’s true.
Here’s a fun little song by Gotye. It's about a strange family who gets a box from Amazon that changes everything for them: