Twice a month I meet for a few hours with four other women. Our friendship has a history as neighbors, fellow artists, some mothers, a few grandmothers, some wives, some ex-wives…it’s a toss up but we share artistic enthusiasms. Our lives are busy and we may not see each other as often as we’d like in any of these roles. But every other week we make time in our schedules to get together. We’ve all said that this time spent together is essential to each of us. For these particular meetings we’ve come to listen deeply to each other.
Something profound ( and I do not use this word lightly ) happens when there is a place to speak without interruption and I am heard without judgement. The thoughts and emotions that have shadowed or emblazoned my days find their rhythm….tell their own story. I get to listen to myself. I witness my own levity, or reconstruct the fragments of myself with a clearer eyed courage I may not have been able to tap into. I move on. I share my accomplishment. I reconcile. I sort through. I experience new thoughts, awarenesses. All this in the deep listening of spiritual friendship.
It takes awhile to build this kind of trust in each other. And it took practice to keep from jumping in and immediately sharing my own story when I could relate to something being said… practice in compassionate response rather than empathetic reaction. What surprises me most, over and over again, is finding insight into complicated concerns by listening to one of the other women talking about what’s going on in her own life. It can be entirely unrelated and usually is. There must be some kind of alchemy just in listening to each other… this thread weaving us together bringing insight.
The trust we’ve been building with each other has other far reaching effects. I’ve noticed that this practice in listening has increased my patience with other people when they act in ways that I find are not immediately understandable. I’m also getting better at not needing to have complete understanding of a situation to feel comfortable engaging. I’m more patient with myself as well…more able to recognize when I’ve fallen into an old habitual reaction, able to acknowledge it and move on, without fear that the results of my actions will cause unwanted repercussions. This helps in personal dynamics since “holding” perpetuates a dynamic. The ability to let go dissolves the tension keeping an unworkable dynamic in place.
A sentiment that gets tossed around a lot at meetings is that we’re grateful, despite all the weirdness in our lives. I love these women. I can count on one of us to initiate a simple, symbolic way to express this. Writing this now reminds me that it’s been my turn for awhile.