You don't need more time, you just need more listeningApr 09, 2022
On Thursday night I was listening to mythologist Michael Meade during his webinar called "Coping in a World Gone Wrong." From a mythological point of view, the end times are also the beginning times. And they call for a special focus, because it no longer serves to hang onto "business as usual."
In this moment of breakdown, the old stories assure us, more chaos is coming. So the first thing to do, Meade says is: "Don't let go of the thread." With this he's pointing both at the old wisdom we still have in the human treasury and at the ways we can help ourselves - and each other -- cope in times that feel desperate.
The first thing is to know that you can't be anything else but who you are. As the poet Rumi once emphatically said: "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken." This might require forgiveness. Of others, but especially of yourself. Meade believes these are not the time for a heroic project, but for a genius project.
And what does he mean by that?
Each of us carries our own spark of genius, something we alone are uniquely able to do. This is the moment to stop, get quiet and listen in. Recently I was speaking to a friend suffering from burnout. He was forced to stop paying attention to so many communities and activities. He's had to focus on himself and he's had a challenging lesson about what happens when you don't host yourself and you forget to ask for help. I can commiserate, because I've been there.
This might be time not to do more, but to do less. And to do it above and beyond how you believed you were capable of doing it. For the world's "genius project" to be successful, it requires all of us. Each in our unique way.
Meade also believes we don't need more time -- the fact that our current societies are addicted to time and to clock watching is just driving our anxiety higher and making it impossible for us to hear the inner voice. What we need is timelessness, the liminal space where new possibility dwells. What we need is the dance between what the Greeks call chronus, often depicted as Father Time with his scythe, and kairos, meaning just the right moment, sometimes depicted with wings, holding his scales.
Timelessness gives us breathing space. It calls to the deeper parts of our nature and relaxes the nervous system so that new and fresh thoughts can bubble up. When people ask me where's my favourite place in the world, I say it is in a circle where people are leaning in, because that's where timelessness resides -- in the places where people are practicing full-bodied listening.
Listening is the partner, you might even say the lover, of storytelling. Where you find one, you'll find the other. And both of them are human superpowers. It is possible to listen a better story out of someone than they ever thought they would tell. It is possible to listen between, behind, beneath the words and give someone back to themselves. I know, because I've witnessed it again and again.
It is the difference between asking How are you? and inviting How are you, really? and holding your silence until the truth bubbles up. Listening is proof of our attention and care. Listening is love in action. And it is a key skill and art form we need more of right now. Don't let go of the thread!
Join us in THE STORY DOJO on Monday April 11 as we put the focus on listening with Anthony Weeks a professional listener who is a graphic facilitator. www.thestorydojo.com
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