The Listening Mind

Paul Gorman
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Reckoning, judging, evaluating, leaping in, taking it personally, being bored -- the helping act has many number of invitations to reactiveness and distraction. Partly we are agitated because we so intensely want to help. After all, someone's in pain. We care. So part of the time we are listening, but we may also be using our minds to solve the problem. There's a pull to be efficient, to reach some kind of resolution. We reach for certain familiar models or approaches. In order to be helpful, our analytic mind must stay on top of it all.

So we jump between listening and judging. But in our zeal to help, we may increase the distance between the person and our own consciousness. We find ourselves primarily in our own thoughts, not WITH another person. Not only are we listening less, but the concepts our mind is coming up with start to act as a screen that preselects information. One thought rules out another.

One of the results of all this mental activity is that there's less room to meet, less room for a new truth to emerge, less room to let things simply be revealed in "their own good time." The mind tries to do too many things at once. It's difficult to know which mental vectors are useful and which are distractions, static on the line, bad connections.

If we continue to observe our mind over some time, we notice that it's not always distracted and busy. [...] Experiences lead us to inquire whether there might be something we could do more regularly and formally to quiet the mind, strengthen its concentration, make available the deeper insights that often result, and bring them into closer attunement with the empathy and compassion of our heart. How immeasurably this might enhance our ability to help others.

-- Paul Gorman and Ram Dass in 'How Can I Help?'

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