Developing compassion is a core practice in many traditions, however, if you have trouble listening to others than developing compassion can become hard. So how do we correct this and improve our listening skills?
In his book, Joyful Path of Good Fortune, Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche refers to three faults that prevent us from receiving the benefits of teaching and listening to Dharma.
Although he was referring to how these three faults impact Dharma practice they quickly translate to how our listening skills affect those around us.
(Also, it’s important to know that you don’t have to be Buddhist to realize these faults or to practice the opposing actions.)
Three faults of poor listening:
1. The fault of being like a pot turned upside-down
2. The fault of being like a bad-smelling pot
3. The fault of being like a leaky pot
As you can imagine the fault of being like a pot turned upside-down is we are physically present however we are so distracted that no information can enter our heart or mind.
This fault is easy to spot, and we often experience it daily. With modern technology, it’s not uncommon for friends and family to be more engaged with their devices than with their immediate surroundings. Because of these devices, we tune out those around us.
The fault of being like a bad-smelling pot is just as stinky as it sounds and has to do with our motivations. Geshe-la says, “just as good food becomes contaminated when we put it into a bad-smelling pot, so Dharma is wasted on us when we listen with an incorrect motivation.”
If a person approaches us and engages in conversation but our motivation is ill-willed, it will not go smoothly for either party. I’m sure you can think of a time when this has happened to you or someone you know? Or maybe you’ve experienced it within yourself?
The last and final fault is that of being a leaky-pot. A leaky pot listens with great motivation but quickly forgets anything it has heard.
Others can see this fault as aloofness or even that you don’t care enough to want to help and that’s not what we want others to feel when they come to us in a time of need.
So if we find ourselves with any of these faults what can we do to develop our listening skills?
I’m so glad you asked!
1. Cut the Cord
2. Meditate on Cherishing Others
3. Practice Patience
How beautiful it is to have friends and family come to us wanting to talk and ask for advice. For this to be effective, we must first learn to create positive spaces where people feel comfortable.
One way to get out of our heads and make some space is to take frequent breaks from electronics and media -cut the cord and unplug.
Perhaps pick a day where you don’t use your phone or if that is too much start with ten minutes a day (an excellent time to tune out is right before bed). Another practice that I like is to put my phone in airplane mode when work ends; then I’m not distracted by work emails.
A powerful practice to develop deep compassion is the practice of cherishing others. When we meditate and contemplate that others are important and that their happiness and freedom is essential, our relationships begin to change and change fast.
Once you being to practice cutting the cord and cherishing others, you naturally become more present, more engaged. Over time your motivation becomes purer, and you seek out opportunities to serve others.
Taking it a few steps back: maybe you need to practice listening to yourself first?
Often when we are hurt, we begin obsessing with the inner dialogue and can become so lost that we stop listening to what our body, mind, and lives are trying to tell us. The three techniques to develop strong listening skills work not only for listening to others but also to ourselves! For many years, I refused to listen to what my body and mind were trying to tell me, and it caused me much suffering.
1. Take time off from all forms of media so that you can clear your mind
2. Sit down and feel the importance of other’s happiness to open your heart
3. Be gentle, be patient with others and yourself
If you found this post helpful please share it on your preferred social sharing site, but not while you’re taking time away from the digital world!
Originally appeared on CM.
Photo by Pixabay.