There is persistent rhetoric in the spiritual communities about deep listening and needing to be heard. Bad gurus talk pretty words about being really present with others and even seem to demonstrate this with their sparkly spiritual eyes, hypnotic certainty and clever modes of reflection that appear to constantly reveal. They are not wrong, but they are also not the true authorities on such things. No one is.
Or rather, we all are, but only as we take the continuous step to enter in authentically. Don’t worry about depth. That stuff comes and goes. Don’t try and make your eyes sparkle with magical potency. Appearing spiritual is an oubliette that the shady Gurus trick us into by being terrible role models. Even the irreverent ones want to make you into the image of the rebel. If you’ve been caught in such a scandal of self-importance, call it a phase and let’s move on.
“The first duty of love is to listen.”
― Paul Tillich
Authenticity keeps changing its appearance. There is no one way it will appear from moment to moment, and so the only way to know it is to listen. Listening isn’t that difficult unless you’re possessed with a mind full of thoughts that are constantly telling you how it is, how it isn’t and how it should be. If we live either running from or ridden by our thoughts and emotions, our inner world, which always feels personal, we are locked into their conclusions and the boundaries of knowledge they imply.
So first, in order to listen to anything else, we must learn to listen to ourselves. Anyone who claims to hear others but lives in self-ignorance is spreading foolishness in the world. Strangely though, it can be difficult to hear ourselves unless someone else is hearing us too. Again we find another art that is, “the solitary work which we cannot do alone.”
A Lineage of Listening
To hear, we must be taught to hear and to be taught to hear, we must be listened to. This explains the success, the necessity, of therapists and counseling of all kinds. Yet we are not as hungry as we think to be heard. Our true hunger is to be able to listen. To intimately listen and hear the cosmos, our whole life and all that we are and all that it is saying. We just haven’t much been heard, so we’ve become patterned to not know how to listen.
Of course, it is never as cut and dry as I imply. All of life, like authenticity, arises in ever-changing forms, and so our listening must constantly adjust in order to hear. While we can get lucky and learn it from our community, usually we must seek it out. We can find it in the soft arts, such as Aikido, Tai Chi Push Hands, Contact Improv dancing, and any practice that requires a deep exploration of giving and receiving equally. We can learn it in our body, and then our body can inform our person on how to do it.
Pushing and Pulling
In the soft arts, we learn some contrary things. We learn to pull when we are pushed, we learn to push when we are pulled. We learn to yield when we are engaged and we learn to express when we feel the opening. We learn to wait, deeply wait, but only for a split moment, until it is the next moment when we must listen again. While that is all good fun, the real magic happens when, in all of our pushing and pulling, we eventually find how to do both at the same time.
This is a strange thing that requires all that special-magic-guru presence the bad gurus are slinging with their self-styled “Tantric” stage shows. Yet again, they are not wrong (just deceptively entraining and equally misguided in their interpersonal agendas). Remember, Tantra means “web,” and it is this web of interconnectivity which we are attempting to reveal when we listen. We find it by being so present we are neither pushing nor pulling, yet both pushing and pulling, all at once. Staying present with a push that keeps us in the game, but always ready with a yielding bow when the authenticity calls for it.
Suggested Divination Meanings
What is pushing/pulling on me, and where is it pushing/pulling me?
Is it better right now to push or to pull?
If I am still, where am I drawn to move? If I am moving, where can I find a still point?
How am I meeting this situation and is it allowing me to listen both inside and out?
What is present for me that I can only hear if I am still?
How can I meet this situation with strength, but stay soft enough to still be present?
What practices do I have, or could have, that teach me the wisdom of push and pull?
How can I adjust myself to better communicate with others my intentions?
Am I giving myself the space to change from passive to active and back, as needed?
How are the pressures on me guiding me?