Friday, June 29, 2007


Today is a national native day of action in Canada. Native groups are trying to draw attention to outstanding land claims and many other issues that Canada's native people want to educate us about.

I have been to one powwow in my whole life. It made a profound impression on me for many reasons. Today's day of action reminded me of something that occurred at that powwow that I have not forgotten.

Near the end of the day, an elder stood to pay tribute to a friend who had passed on. In the course of talking, he mentioned that he had had the opportunity to speak with one of our Prime Ministers. He wanted to speak to him about his personal experience of the abuse of native children in the residential schools. Perhaps the politician started to respond with the usual platitudes, because the elder said he told the Prime Minister:

"Wait. I want you to listen until I'm finished speaking. I will tell you when I'm done speaking."

We are not very good at listening, are we? We are already making up rebuttals, or thinking of something else perhaps completely unrelated to the speaker's words, or just waiting for an opening to jump in with whatever it is that we want to say ... anything but just listening.

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Blogger Xris (Flatbush Gardener) said...

I wish I had that grace and courage: "I will tell you when I'm done speaking."

I'm a good listener. I've been told that. I know that I can be a good listener. I've put it to work in volunteer settings as hotline and peer counselor. But my listening is the outcome of a hard-won struggle with my monkey mind, the stream of consciousness ever-flowing, one thought triggering another.

The same happens when I speak: my mind leaps ahead of my words. I can't get all these ideas out.

I choose my words carefully. I map out what I'm going to say, how the thoughts and words and concepts connect. It seems like an eternity to me. When I told this to a work colleague, I said "It feels like there are these long pauses." She replied: "There aren't."

I hate when people interrupt me. For me, beneath all this is a fear of not being heard at all, or of being misunderstood. It's the fear that make me interrupt others - what if I don't get a chance to speak! It's the fear that makes me respond with anger when I'm interrupted.

Knowing all this, knowing myself better as I get older, maybe someday I'll be able to respond with a simple "I'm not done."

10:24 p.m.  
Blogger Kati said...

xris, I appreciate your thoughts so much.

I am far from winning the struggle with my monkey mind. I still struggle to meditate, never mind controlling my mind in the heat of a conversation!

But how wonderful it feels to be really heard, eh?

9:19 a.m.  
Blogger Randa said...

I am so worried that what I say will be perceived as having no value that I spill things out as quickly as possible. Of course, then it sounds like I'm rambling and am not vested in the conversation. The non verbal response I get from the listener is what I had anticipated, but not because of my original worry; it is due to the dynamic I have created.

Even though I realize all this, I find it difficult to overcome.

3:03 p.m.  

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