Posts Tagged listening

Support makes all the difference in our lives

I just finished co-facilitating a support group for young women recovering from eating disorders.  Having suffered from them earlier in life, I thought this would be a good experience for me to give back to “my people”.  

It was without a doubt one of the most powerful experiences for me. My role as a facilitator was simple: listen, support, and listen some more.  As a result, I learned so much about them and myself through them.  The funny thing was as a facilitator I barely said much. It was if they were the teachers and I was the student.  Once I got the group going each session and opened the floor up for people to check in about how they were feeling or what was going on for them that week, the group ran itself.  It was an incredible community of young women bravely and openly sharing their personal lives with others in a safe and non-judgmental place.  It was powerful to experience what on in that room each week.

 What I found most amazing was that by the sheer act of listening I became much more empathic.  At first, it was hard and I was not prepared for what started to happen. I started to feel my own pain again, and could really relate to what these young women were going through.  It felt like someone spilt open my wound and poured salt on it.  I started to relive it all over again and it hurt, a lot.  Nevertheless, each session got better and better and ironically ‘the salt’ became the remedy and cleared out the remaining debris.  By the third session, I was there in the trenches with them all and at the end of each night, I wanted to hug each one of them before they left and give them the strength to go on.  

I was so proud of them and felt it was my obligation to encourage and support them for all their hard work, because I knew exactly what they were going through.  I had been there myself and had not forgotten. These young women are already hard on themselves, hence their eating disorder, I thought.  Moreover, they know what they need to do.  I thought what they really needed was more encouragement and positive affirmation in their lives. I know how hard it is to be objective with yourself, so positive reinforcement could mean the difference between them feeling good or feeling bad.  So, I continued to tell these amazing girls how wonderful they are and commended them on their continued commitment to themselves.  I pointed out how far they have come and what a great job they were doing, and how much I learn from them.  I meant every word I said, and saw the hardwork, frustrations, tears and triumphs in them each week.  Wow, it takes tremendous strength and support to unravel and understand your self.  It is true when they say, it takes one to know one. What a determined and amazing group of young women they are! 

 Each night I walked out teary eyed, humbled and honored to be there for each one of them.  I thought this it; this is what it is about.  We are all hurt and wounded in our own ways, which can create a lot of shame.  The more we hide from our feelings about anything, the more power we give them and therefore the more pain we feel.  In order for us to move on in our lives and be the amazing person that each of us is, we need to have those ’safe harbors’ in our lives with people we can really open up with and be ourselves. This allows us to keep our hearts open, even if it means we may feel more vulnerable, and the more we do this we learn that there is strength in our vulnerability, since it allows us to stay connected and find the support and love we seek.

 This experience has been invaluable to me.  I thought I knew a lot, but what I found out was that I don’t know what I don’t know, and that you stay the course in life by keeping an open heart and mind and by using your ears and mouth in the right proportion. When you trust that, each moment is exactly the way it is supposed to be and that you are doing the best that you can, only then can you let go and trust that you are right where you are supposed to be.


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The Power of Listening

I have not written in a while and I miss it.  Writing is a great way for me to process information and share with others.  It is kind of like talking aloud.  I get all my thoughts out, good, bad and crazy, with no interruptions which helps me get clarity.  It is a process though.  I think, write, refine and repeat.  Some posts come out better than others do, but nonetheless I get it out, then I feel soothed, centered and replenished.  It is a form of self-care for me, a time when I really listen to myself.  Ah, I already feel better!

 Have you ever found yourself feeling much better and clearer after sharing your thoughts with someone?  We all do, which is why listening is such a powerful tool for you to offer the people you love. The funny thing is the person doing the talking always feels closer to the person listening and feels as if they know them better as a result.  It is an interesting concept. The next time you are actively listening to someone see how he or she responds and you will see what I am referring to.  They will hug you, thank you or just feel calmer and better and maybe even tell you how much they like you… go ahead, try it. 

When you listen, really listen to someone in a non-judgmental way, you are really saying; I care about you and I am here for you.  It is a powerful message to give someone. The problem is that we all want to be heard and not everyone likes to listen or listens well, so we walk around with these unmet needs.  So do yourself a favor and learn how to really listen, it will do wonders for all your relationships, that is as long as the other person reciprocates.

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Paying it Forward

Today I encountered a great teacher who reminded me how powerful it is to listen and to be there for someone. It was a gorgeous day out and I had some time on my hands before my next appointment, so I walked down to the shopping center to get a cup of coffee and do some errands. The best part about my walks, I always meet someone new, exchange a few smiles or laughs with people who fill me up. 

As I got closer to my destination, a van pulled up and a tall, middle-aged man got out. He seemed a bit frenzied but greeted me with a kind smile and a hello nonetheless. I noticed he left his van running and thought; perhaps he is in a rush. He asked if I was going into the coffee shop and I said yes.  He then asked if I would watch his truck. Huh, I thought.  I just told him I was going into the coffee shop. As if maybe he forgot, I half jokingly said, why don’t you turn off your truck!  He laughed, dropped his head and said I am afraid it will not start again and the story started to unravel. At first my antenna went up and I thought, oh no, I am not being roped into this one. I say that because in general people tend to tell me stuff, sometimes too much. Therefore, I said, I will listen to your problems if you will listen to mine. Boy did he laugh!

We engaged in conversation as we walked in the same direction. He said, come on Amy; let me buy you a cup of coffee. I agreed and as we continued to talk, I realized the man really needed someone to listen to him. He was on-edge and anxious and I could feel it. In addition, he just divulged he had come from having a drink; it was only 10:30 am.

It turns out he is a contractor and this was the second van that broke down on him today. On top of that, it was payday, he was out collecting past due accounts and no one could pay. One person needed three more days, the other person never showed and the last person wrote a bad check for 3k.  Now he was worried about the ramifications: how would he pay his people, what about the materials he bought, etc. 

Ge’ez… I thought I was going out for a nice walk with the intention of having a few laughs! Now my heart is bleeding for a man I barely know. However, I could not walk away from him: I know what it feels like to need support, so I listened without interruption as he unraveled himself.

In the end, he was so grateful and a much happier man. I told him I would say a prayer for him.  He said, no; do not pray for me, I pray for myself. I said, no, you do not get it. This is the buddy system! I will pray for you and you pray for me, because I need your help too!  We both laughed. He was smiling ear-to-ear and could not thank me enough. In fact, he leaned in, gave me a kiss on the cheek, and asked if I would like to meet again.  I graciously declined, but took in his kindness and the lesson incurred and we both walked away feeling much better about ourselves than we previously had.

I know there will come a day when I will need the favor returned, so I keep paying it forward and making deposits in my karmic account!

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