The Art of Listening

I wrote this as one of our weekly journal entries that we send to Nico and Emily.  I was looking through them and decided I’d share some.  While untimely, it’s worth showing the evolution of the trip.  This one was written on February 18th.

There’s been a lot think about in the last week, but I’ve been dwelling a lot on listening.

There was a moment in our interviews with the women that I realized that I was actually listening to them speak without knowing more than two words in their language.  It was almost like I tried to feel the words they were saying.  I was watching the tracking of their eyes.  I was noticing the movement of their bodies.  I was riding the waves of their voices, as they got louder or softer, as they sped up or slow down. 

On the way back to the ashram, I listened to some music and soaked in the landscape.  I had another realization: the millions of little things that were going on in front of me didn’t overwhelm me.  The buildings seemed to rise and fall like little hills and the people flowed around me like I was a stone in a river.

Molly and I talked about the experience of the drive back and talking with the women and we both realized that we were engaging in the collective mind that Ankur, Nico’s friend from Stanford, talked about when he visited us at the ashram.  Ankur walked in the footsteps of Gandhi, who began the famous salt march in 1930 in protest of the British and traveled light and without food, depending on the kindness of strangers who he met along the way.  Ankur, who actually wrote a book about this experience, shared with our group some really interesting reflections. He found that one thing that helped him in his travels was seeing villages as collective entities and being aware of that when he entered each new location’s space.  Ankur went on to say that the conception of a collective mind and space can extend to your individual interactions as well.

 With the women, I think I was just trying to enter their emotional headspace.  To some degree, I think I succeeded.  On the drive back, rather than fighting all the distractions that Wardha had to offer, I just peacefully swam through them and became part of the collective experience.

I’m not quite sure what the implications are, but I think it could change the way I listen to people.  I tend to speak up a lot, but something about the experience has made me want to listen more.  There’s some wise saying about the balance between listening and speaking, but maybe I just didn’t listen the first time I heard it.  I mean really listen.