Joyful Noise

U.C.M. Newsletter

Filled with

Joy, Humor, Laughter, and Inspiration

Editor: Rev. Doti Boon

Vol. 9 pg. 32 (08-12-10)


I am a listening, loving, honoring spiritual being.

How many times have you felt yourself unable to connect, or understand someone else? Sometimes it is your failure to listen that keeps you separate. As ministers, counselors, friends and family it is important that we learn to listen with an open heart.

The Art of Listening

Hearing with an open heart by Jason Esswein

We all know how important it is to listen – to our children, spouse, friends, or co-workers. The command, “Pay attention!” exists for a very good reason. Our attention is the most valuable currency we possess. The quality of our attention is intimately linked with our ability to love, nurture and even heal.

          The Chinese word for listening incorporates two symbols – translated as “open” with “heart.” This could not be more true. Listening requires us to show up by being fully present, which means several things:

          First, we are giving someone our undivided focused attention. We are not making “to do lists” in our mind, waiting for them to finish so we can start talking, or engaging in any other activity which takes us out of the moment.

          Second, being fully present requires a willingness to feel uncomfortable, especially when listening to people closest to us. When someone is suffering in any way (particularly with intense grief or anger), it is never pleasant to witness or feel. In fact, the closer we are to the speaker, the more we are likely to be affected by their pain.

          It is crucial that we avoid the impulse to “fix” the other person’s pain, stress, or other challenges. Most of us come up with an immediate “solution:  in the form of “Well just do this” or “Don’t worry about it, everything is going to be okay.” One of the most damaging reactions is, “Don’t cry” which completely shuts a person down.

          For example, if our spouse or friend begins to cry during a difficult experience, a common response is “Don’t cry.” We often follow by touching the person (i.e., patting their back, tapping their knee, etc.) Both of these reactions often pull both parties out of their current experience. Unfortunately, in this situation, the person who was supposedly being listened to often chooses to “swallow” their feelings, disconnect from their center, and take care of the person who appeared to be present and listening.

          The more we can allow and accept our own uncomfortable feelings, the more we are able to be present and truly listen with an open heart.

          Deeply knowing, loving, and accepting ourselves (feeling comfortable in our own skin) is one of the greatest contributions we can make to others, the world, and ourselves in general. Every time we interact with someone we have the power to provide the opportunity to experience the world as safe, benevolent, and beautiful, or as cold, harsh, and frightening. Becoming a better listener enables others to experience the world as the former.

          Cultivating this quality drastically improves our relationships with ourselves, family, friends, and business associates.  And ultimately, relationships are what connect us to life itself.

          Jason Esswein is a license marriage and family therapist in south San Jose.


“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.”  Epictetus


One Sunday I heard two teenage girls in the back giggling and disturbing people. I interrupted my sermon and announced sternly, “There are two of you here who have not heard a word I’ve said.” That quieted them down.

When the service was over, I went to greet people at the front door. Three adults apologized for going to sleep in church, promising it would never happen again.


There were three restaurants on the same block. One day one of them put up a sign which said “The Best Restaurant in the City.”

The next day, the largest restaurant on the block put up a larger sign, which said “The Best Restaurant in the World.”

On the third day, the smallest restaurant put up a small sign, which said “The Best Restaurant on this Block.”


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