by Pamela Mueggenberg LMHP, MA
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they bloom like flowers.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
“I’m making a nether garden inside my house where I can grow netherwort and I thought it took netherrack but it didn’t so I tried nethersoil and that didn’t work either and then I thought aha, its soulsand and it worked and now I have 64 netherworts what’s your favorite Minecraft plant, I like the coral reef but you can’t get bees down there.” - my 8 year old son
We all have monologues inside us. Grand speeches we practice in the shower for our next work meeting, or titillating date with our new favorite person, or a frankly dynamite and awe inspiring screed against the oppression of daylight savings. When we are able to sit with someone who fully hears our words, our story, we experience their mind and our mind connecting - a healing channel between us that helps us both more fully embrace our shared experience and human worth. We can pour our monologue out into the shared space, and our companion can marvel at our creation. The experience can be sacred.
But we are a reciprocal species. We learn best through give and take, sharing information through the interplay of two minds as they push and pull an idea into something new. We long to be heard just as much, if not more, as we desire our beloveds to be heard by us. To put it more bluntly, sometimes you just want to get a word in!
In certain situations, that’s just not what needs to happen. My beautiful child has clearly told me that when he is talking Minecraft he is “talking out my thoughts as they come in my head and I don’t want you to talk back because it mixes up all my ideas.” So I am quiet, and I listen, and I marvel, and I can see his imagination in real time as it creates and discards ideas as fluidly as a sculptor at the wheel.
So what is our place here, as we are quiet, and listening, and marveling? It is easy to feel swept up in another’s story, to lose sense of ourselves or our voice as another is stretching theirs. Where is the reciprocity that we value so deeply?
To fully celebrate the seemingly paradoxical reciprocity of listening to another person speak without pause is to acknowledge the power of the listener, of the witness. These monologues cannot be heard, in that moment, if we choose not to listen; they would simply not exist.
We are important, and we can be cherished as such. As we breathe in, we inhale the rate, the cadence, the message of this person’s words. As we breathe out we explore our own body and mind, give ourselves the space, love, and energy we need in that moment. When you tire, when your brain gets full, you are able then to compassionately connect with your person and let them know when the conversation needs to shift without eliciting defensiveness or shame.
In the meantime, breathe in your beloved. Breathe out, and allow your focus of attention to move to your own mind and body. Breathe in, you. Breathe out, me.
Breathe in. Breathe out.