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Disturb Me, Please!

--by Margaret Wheatley (Oct 26, 2009)


In graduate school, I had one professor who encouraged us to notice what surprised or disturbed us. If we were surprised by some statement, it indicated we were assuming that something else was true. If we were disturbed by a comment, it indicated we held a belief contrary to that. Noticing what disturbs me has been an incredibly useful lens into my interior, deeply held beliefs. When I'm shocked at another's position, I have the opportunity to see my own position in greater clarity. When I hear myself saying "How could anyone believe something like that?!" a doorway has opened for me to see what I believe. These moments of true disturbance are great gifts. In making my beliefs visible, they allow me to consciously choose them again, or change them.

What if we were to be together and listen to each other's comments with a willingness to expose rather than to confirm our own beliefs and opinions? What if we were to willingly listen to one another with the awareness that we each see the world in unique ways? And with the expectation that I could learn something new if I listen for the differences rather than the similarities?

We have this opportunity many times in a day, everyday. What might we see, what might we learn, what might we create together, if we become this kind of listener, one who enjoys the differences and welcomes in disturbance? I know we would be delightfully startled by how much difference there is. And then we would be wonderfully comforted by how much closer we became, because every time we listen well, we move towards each other. From our new thoughts and our new companions, we would all become wiser.

It would be more fruitful to explore this strange and puzzling world if we were together. It would also be far less frightening and lonely. We would be together, brought together by our differences rather than separated by them. When we are willing to be disturbed by newness rather than clinging to our certainty, when we are willing to truly listen to someone who sees the world differently, then wonderful things happen. We learn that we don't have to agree with each other in order to explore together. There is no need to be joined together at the head, as long as we are joined together at the heart.

- By Margaret Wheatley

 


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12 Previous Reflections:

 
On May 9, 2012 liz wrote:
Yes! reflecting on your own beliefs through the exposure of others is a rewarding process!

On Nov 11, 2009 taga wrote:

precisely.....knowing that what disturbs us may not always be in a negative context, but rather a way to deeply know more of ourselves.......its a blessing having a listening heart for others.....how much more if you know how to listen to your very self.... :o)



On Nov 10, 2009 Aisha Rafea wrote:

I loved it. The ability to Listen is an art and knowledge of a pure heart.



On Oct 31, 2009 Sheeba wrote:

A thoughtfull pssage...very rarely do we admit to things that are not what we learn of ourself but it requires a key learning and observation...



On Oct 29, 2009 Somik Raha wrote:

I really liked this passage. The last paragraph reminded me of a wise man saying, "Unity, not uniformity!" The idea of Unity in Diversity is a powerful one, and the author is nudging us to recognize that unity. This unity, as she points out, is not at the level of the mind, for we are so divided in our thoughts, opinions and contexts. For lack of a better expression, we call this unity of the heart. Whenever I have not been in this unity, and engaged in a debate or conversation, I find myself disturbed. Why did the other person say this or that? And whenever I've engaged from the foundation of unity, I have felt calm and undisturbed, no matter what is said to me. The quality of such conversations has been entirely different (and much preferred). Yet, it is hard to be in that space. I find the author's technique very helpful - it is an extension of what we do in meditation with our eyes closed. We are continuing the observation process in everyday life situations. A big part  See full.

I really liked this passage. The last paragraph reminded me of a wise man saying, "Unity, not uniformity!" The idea of Unity in Diversity is a powerful one, and the author is nudging us to recognize that unity. This unity, as she points out, is not at the level of the mind, for we are so divided in our thoughts, opinions and contexts. For lack of a better expression, we call this unity of the heart. Whenever I have not been in this unity, and engaged in a debate or conversation, I find myself disturbed. Why did the other person say this or that? And whenever I've engaged from the foundation of unity, I have felt calm and undisturbed, no matter what is said to me. The quality of such conversations has been entirely different (and much preferred). Yet, it is hard to be in that space. I find the author's technique very helpful - it is an extension of what we do in meditation with our eyes closed. We are continuing the observation process in everyday life situations.

A big part of listening truly from a space of unity is the resulting trust. Trust, at a superficial level is about me knowing the other person will be right. I remembered a deeper definition of trust by Patrick Lencioni, who says that trust is about knowing that you won't be destroyed by the other person if you are wrong. If we step it up another level, trust is about knowing that you are fine no matter what happens to you. There may be moments where we are able to trust the universe in this manner, but when this happens, we are in a different zone. The quality of our interactions are vastly different, and the conversations we have become transformative. 

Finally, a story about recognizing the disturbance and learning something about myself from it. My sister is going through a tough patch, and in conversations with her, she would stall and not share her decision situation. I was quite disturbed by her "we'll see what happens." When I asked my wife for advice, she candidly said, "Have you ever spoken to your sister without advising her? Can you try listening to her and not being the elder brother?" I tried remembering when I'd last done that and it was many years back. 

So, I called her and told her sincerely of my intention to reconnect. She said there was one condition on her end. I should not ask her to go for a 10-day meditation camp. I was stunned. I wasn't thinking of suggesting it this time, but in my past conversations, instead of listening and trying to understand, at the first sign of emotional stress on her or anyone else's part, I'd suggest that they go off for a 10-day. I can see why this is an immature suggestion on my part - it is my way of saying, "since I don't have time or ability to listen and help, why don't you go help yourself?" While such a suggestion has its merits, there is a time and place for it, and it should not be used as a copout for empathetic listening and understanding. I agreed of course, and the result of the conversation was a much better understanding of her situation. I don't want her to think like me and act like me. I love and liker her the way she is. And I also accept the fact that I cannot solve her and other people's problems, much as I'd like to think I do. The world was fine without me, and it will be fine after I've left. I am at peace. But I needed the disturbance to discover it :).

And as Guri pointed out at the end, I will forget this wisdom and will need another disturbance to remember it again. 

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On Oct 29, 2009 susan bradley wrote:

I missed this week and the gathering of like hearted people at the Mehta Family home.  This disturbed me, and my usually staid and predictable goings on in life!  As is true to Margaret Wheatley's passage though, the difference even in my activitiy this week has caused me to be out of my comfort zone adn recognize the value that the gathering in peaceful repose with 20-60 people and the habitual nature of sitting quietly has in my life. This morning I've watched the sun rise over the desert in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Absolutely beautiful how the soft pink pallet of light reflects on the hills surrounding the city.  I thought of Ms. Wheatley's writing and agree that it is our differences that are beautiful, thought provoking, sometimes uncomfortable, for me always attractive and essential to individual and group growth.  A friend of mine use to say to me that it is our differences that make us who we are and also keep things interesting! There  See full.

I missed this week and the gathering of like hearted people at the Mehta Family home.  This disturbed me, and my usually staid and predictable goings on in life!  As is true to Margaret Wheatley's passage though, the difference even in my activitiy this week has caused me to be out of my comfort zone adn recognize the value that the gathering in peaceful repose with 20-60 people and the habitual nature of sitting quietly has in my life.

This morning I've watched the sun rise over the desert in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Absolutely beautiful how the soft pink pallet of light reflects on the hills surrounding the city.  I thought of Ms. Wheatley's writing and agree that it is our differences that are beautiful, thought provoking, sometimes uncomfortable, for me always attractive and essential to individual and group growth.  A friend of mine use to say to me that it is our differences that make us who we are and also keep things interesting!

There is something more to this stopping and listening and recognizing the discomfort that Margaret writes about ... it is intuition as well, our gut feeling, our inner compass.  The wisdom comes to us in recognizing the what and why we are uncomfortable.  This allows us to learn more about ourselves and each other.  I return to the words of so many in our Wednesday circle - understanding and compassion for ourselves and others.

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On Oct 29, 2009 sesha wrote:

I agree.

I have a few friends who agree not to agrre with whatever the other says. That opens up another view point. No point in having yes women as friends. We wudnt know when we go wrong.Also it is refreshing to hear another way of looking at things.

Sesha



On Oct 27, 2009 Bill Miller wrote:

Reminds me of a similar observation that I also find this helpful, by psychologist Karl Pribram, and his holographic model for brain functioning. Things are stored in the brain in a manner similar to a holographic pattern (not localized in particular cells). Emotional experience happens (both positive and negative) when something disrupts or doesn't fit the established patterns (e.g. something desirable or aversive happens that you weren't expecting). I guess the message is to not be too attached to your "patterns" :-)



On Oct 27, 2009 Rajesh wrote:

A very interesting and useful approach to become aware of our conditioning. But it's so hard to pause, be in the space between the stimulus and our response, and listen to ourselves!

 



On Oct 27, 2009 Bhavana wrote:

 This is short, sweet and absolutely a key --  Mindfulness in action, Remember and offer, use the self-reflective organ in our consciousness, keep on moving up the spiral of evolution -- bless you who found and posted it, and she who wrote it, and That which is inspiring us all.



On Oct 26, 2009 trudy wrote:

Thought this was  interesting.



On Oct 26, 2009 Rahul wrote:

I agree completely!  I often notice myself and others speaking in order to confirm our beliefs, although in the moments where I have listened to others, looking only to expose further their beliefs without imposing my own, I have made steps toward deeper and more meaningful relationships than I have ever had before.  I believe this is the "lost art of conversation" that I often hear people mention!