Peace, Kindness, and Attention

(January Peace Post & January Peace Challenge entry)

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”
-Simone Weil

Photo of a small pond inside the Cave Without a Name near Boerne, Texas, in 2012. You can’t help but listen to every sound in a cave. Caves are usually so quiet.

Paying attention to someone, really listening to him or her, is a major act of kindness and peace for me. So often, I find that when I take my attention away from someone, my appreciation for that person’s experience diminishes in someway. I think you need to pay attention to the person that’s talking to really appreciate and understand the person. Also, how do I expect to have someone listen to me if I don’t listen to them. I mean truly listen, truly pay attention to where this person is coming from. Their experience, their pain, their joy. So often, I think we believe our experience, pain, joy is it. But it’s not. I see news stories of conflict in the United States, in the Middle East, Africa, and basically all over the world. Come to think of it, conflict appears to be a natural part of the human condition. Okay, maybe it is. However, I think if there were more listening going on and less judging and shooting there would be more peace.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

Disagreements do happen, since we’re different. Although we are all human, we have all been raised in different contexts. Consequently, all these contexts create a variety of experiences and beliefs. Maybe same earth, but different country. Maybe same country, different religion. Maybe same religion, different family. Maybe same family, different time. And the examples go on and on. These differences often scare us. Maybe that’s one reason we don’t pay attention and listen. But listening and paying attention to another’s different experience doesn’t make our experience any less. What ruins my experience and the other person’s experience is not listening and not paying attention. Forcing my experience on someone else with the assumption that someone with a different experience will accept my experience by force only creates some sort of conflict sooner or later. Instead, listening and paying attention brings the understanding of another person’s experience and encourages that person to listen and pay attention to my experience. The attention and listening open the door to true communication. Can you see how that comes closer to peace than forcing beliefs on someone and expecting resolution? I’m guessing that truly listening and paying attention may sound naive to some people, but I’d like to think there are better ways to deal with disagreements than being judgemental or shooting towards someone you don’t really know.

“…the LORD came and stood there, calling out as before: ‘Samuel, Samuel!’
Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.'”
-1 Samuel 3:10

It’s easy not to listen and want others to listen to me. It’s also easier to pray to God and expect Him to listen to all my prayers. My peace challenge for myself today and everyday is to do my best to listen and pay attention to other people’s experience because mine is not the only experience. Also everyday, I will do my best to listen to God, because life is bigger than me.

Below are some ideas for better listening that I’ve found helpful through my experience, reading, or from professors, family, and friends:

Practice a martial art or other physical exercise routine to learn discipline and self-control. You need self-control to keep from snapping at and yelling at someone you disagree with and listen without judgement.

Practice prayer, contemplation, meditation, or other spiritual exercise to quiet your feelings, mental chatter, and worry and develop discipline and self-control. With a calm mind, your attention and listening skills can improve.

Be kind to yourself and de-stress. Find ways to lower your stress such as exercise, relaxation techniques, fun activities, music, family time, friend time. You don’t work great with others when you’re stressed. At least I don’t.

Be aware of your own values. What pushes your buttons? Being clear about your own values helps you prepare to react better when someone pushes your buttons or disagrees with you. And understanding what is important to you helps you be more considerate and respecting of what is important to someone else.

Be aware of your attending and listening behavior. Are you looking at the person who is talking to you or are you looking at your cellphone, computer, TV, etc. Are you focusing on what is important to the person through what they emphasize and the feelings they express? Or are you focusing on how silly you think their ideas are, and how you think your ideas and experience are better?

Here’s a musical piece that gives me a little peace of mind to listen better. Enjoy! It’s Meditation from Thais, by Jules Massenet, performed by Itzak Perlman.

If you’re interested in promoting peace through blogging and want to become a Blogger for Peace, commit to write one blog post on peace once a month and click on the badge below to let Kozo at Everyday Gurus know you want to join. You can post a photo, video, essay, or anything you want that has to do with peace. Kozo is also providing a monthly post where he gives a peace challenge which can give inspiration for your monthly peace post. January’s peace challenge is “Acts of Kindness“.

About Claudia

Hi!! My name is Claudia. Blogging is sort of a creative/therapeutic activity for me. I blog about being a wife, mother, student, caseworker, and simply being human through photography, words, music, and blog challenges. Mental illness has also been part of my life, so you'll sometimes find mental health and psychology in my posts. I've dealt with anxiety and depression most of my life. And my husband has bipolar disorder. My hope is that I may show readers that it is possible for people to live positive, productive lives despite mental illness, challenges, or frustrations. View all posts by Claudia

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