Compassionate Listening, Part One

Recently I read some comments on a Facebook post about an American athlete who chose to take a knee when our national anthem was being played at an international competition.

As is typical for these types of emotionally charged discussions, it escalated into an ugly exchange very quickly. When I read, “I hope you get hit by a truck,” I was so dismayed I had to move on to something else. 

I don’t know if we can ever get to a place of tolerance from our current divisiveness, but if we do, I believe it will be through compassion. I also believe we have to try.

In “The Middle Way: When Clients Vent,” massage therapist Carrie Jones states that more and more clients these days need to talk instead of zone out during their sessions. Many people have increased daily stress that leads to the need to vocalize their emotional turmoil.

How does a therapist best respond to that? I was taught in massage school that we allow the client to direct the session. If they want to be quiet, we are quiet. If they want to talk, we probably need to allow it. For some, venting is part of the “therapy.” Not that we are trained counselors—we are not! But simply being present and allowing the clients to express themselves can be more therapeutic than insisting they stay quiet and keep pent up frustration within. We don’t have to agree; in fact, it’s better if the therapist keeps her opinions to herself.

Jones challenges therapists to go one step further, to live in the Middle Way. This is a Buddhist principle that promotes a balanced approach to life. We are encouraged to take a long time and ask a lot of questions before we form an opinion on an issue—if we form an opinion at all. It’s imperative to research both (or all) sides of an issue from a neutral stance in the middle.

She shares, “It is only when we inspect both sides that we can truly form an educated opinion. Imagine for a moment if all the extreme thinkers stopped arguing and disagreeing and simply listened without the intent to respond or change others. Would they be more or less likely to have stress? Would this Middle Way unify such divided people?”

We can only hope. By seeking a greater understanding of WHY we feel the way we do, and why others feel they way they do, we can increase compassion and reduce the hate or anger or tension that can accompany having opposing viewpoints.

I have to admit, I feel very challenged by the idea of being so completely neutral that I agree to form no opinion one way or the other. Could I live that much in The Middle? Isn’t it important to take a stance and fight for what you believe in?

I think so! At least about the things that are most important to us. But we also have to find a way to be respectful and diplomatic. Perhaps we can remember that other people feel just as passionate as we do, and maybe we can even admire each other’s passion when we passionately disagree!

We have to get better at listening, at finding our commonalities so we can have compassion toward one another. To be continued next week…

Source: “The Middle Way: When Clients Vent, by Carrie Jones, “Massage & Bodywork” Magazine, November/December 2018

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Personal Growth Posted on June 19, 2019

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