A short and insightful note by Suha.
Everything began on a scorching summer day in July. I was peacefully seated, waiting for a bus, when an elderly Arabian lady, who was all in a swelter, came near me and burst out: “…This heat is really too much!”
“I like it hot!” I heard myself reply without even looking at her.
I hadn’t reckoned with the impact my own words would have on me. My mind rose up against me: “Is this the way to listen? The lady wasn’t interested in your reaction to the heat; she was complaining that it was too much for her… But you weren’t even paying attention to her… You just wished to let her know that, unlike her, you are able to face up to the heat… You only made her feel ‘defective’”…
I bowed down, feeling that I had been caught red-handed. A small, intrinsically insignificant event: but it had hit the mark: it is true that I am not able to listen. However, life was generous with me: two days later, my 95-year-old neighbour uttered the same remark, and I heard myself reply: “Don’t I know it, Maria Teresa!” Her reply was a big smile. She felt welcomed, listened to, understood.
What prevents me from paying attention? “I, I; me, me”, as the Indians say: as if I were the only person on earth. And someone who always has something to say.
Being aware of my weakness, I started watching myself closely while I paid attention to the person who was in front of me and was talking to me. It didn’t even occur to me to think of a premeditated reply: I just listened without having my say at all. But in this empty space, in this absence of an answer, what was happening to me?
Wonder of wonders… While I pay attention to the other person, I am also paying attention, within myself, to my stupid silent judgements, my impatience, my hasty conclusions: all of them are unspoken, but I am clearly aware of them. And what do I discover? My rigidity… This hits me between the eyes, which at first are unbelieving and offer resistance, then become ready to remove the intransigence that is blurring my sight.
As my inward judgements on the other person gradually decrease, my range of attention broadens: I become sensitive to the expressions on his (or her) face, the tone of his voice, the movements of his hands and eyes; to the hesitations, the silences, the energy that flows. This is how – step by step – the other person comes into my life in a palpable manner and becomes visible in his unique splendour.
And besides, after all, do the criticisms I visit on myself still have a meaning? Isn’t it true that I too am this unique splendour?
The next step was spontaneous: what sort of dialogue can I create? I began with the most direct type of case: when the remarks of a friend hurt me, I decided not to withdraw into myself, but to ask for an explanation. “What did you mean to say? Why did you say that?” This made the difference, because I no longer relied on my hasty conclusions or my unjustified withdrawal. So a pleasant transparency created a connection.
And now it was time to listen to my favourite, most intimate companion: my body. Here, I tell myself, we must really become friends. I didn’t look after it very much in the past, when my youth was proceeding speedily; but now that my steps are becoming slow and I must avoid sudden movements in order not to lose my balance, I have no choice but to treat it with respect and ask for its advice. For instance, of late it has been letting me know that it wants to eat less: yes, sir, it takes me a while, but I obey.
I’m walking toward the Underground, when a thick backache leads me to ask it: “What are you telling me?” and it whispers: “You’re walking too fast.” I slow down, and the backache disappears. Or, if it doesn’t, I greet my backache and tell it: “All right, now let’s walk together and keep each other company.” And company warms up my heart.
Anyway, it’s true, I must admit it, I do like it hot!
Translation by Marta Innocenti. Italian original will be published next month by Osho Times – www.oshotimes.it – Photo by Hobi industri on Unsplash
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