I had to do some updates to my website recently and noticed that my last post was quite some time ago so started thinking about what’s held resonance for me lately. In the last few weeks I’ve had occasion to listen to several different speakers, in a variety of settings. Although the topics were all over the map, the common threads that held me captive included simplicity in the message and the personal connections they made between what they do and how it impacts the world.
WordPress offered me a hint for inspiration – to think about a line from a song. The song that came to mind is by Everlast – “What it’s Like”. For those who know the song, you can guess where I’m going. For those who don’t, it’s about empathy and our frequent failure to notice or imagine what others might be experiencing. Empathy, in my mind, isn’t about knowing the feelings of another; it’s about being willing to open your mind and really listen to or observe someone else’s story. Empathy is part of my job, and something I strive for, but don’t always reach. Outside my job, I know I fail regularly to notice others, or get impatient. Most often my impatience arises when I am focused on some goal on the other side of wherever I am at the time.
Preoccupation with stuff, things to do and places to get to is probably the biggest source of impatience and the biggest block to empathy, for me at least. If it’s the same for you, I’ll share some things I’ve learned as I’ve listened to the speakers who inspired me recently. All of them are renowned in their fields, and none of them talked about stuff! They talked about ideas and experiences and every one of them talked about listening and watching. As I listened to them, I heard stories from around the world, mostly about other people, although in one case also about orangutans. I now understand that being concerned about endangered species also means being concerned about people. Don’t get me wrong, I also like stuff and pursue it as much as the next person. However, I do know that when I’m deeply absorbed in listening and just being where I am feels the most peaceful and alive.
For those of you who know me, I’m a big fan of mindfulness. For those of you who know me really well, I accomplish it a very small amount of the time. My inspirational speakers and the song that inspires me tell me the same thing. In the moment that you inhabit right now, pay attention, set aside whatever preoccupies you that isn’t right now, and listen and watch.