The power of listening

by Deborah Quibell, 12-Feb-2016

I walked in a bit early for the interview. I had been thinking about it for many days, and felt simultaneously excited and immensely settled. 

I had known the work of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche for some time, but had never had the pleasure to meet him in person. He was one of the first to bring the Tibetan Bon Buddhist teachings to the West. He is the founder and spiritual director of the Ligmincha Institute, and has written many books. I had just pulled his Awakening the Luminous Mind: Tibetan Meditation for Peace and Joy down from a particular section on my book shelf. I opened directly to page 38, Chapter 2. My eyes scanned over these words,

"Throughout the history of humankind, people have been revering and bowing before sacred mountains, images of gods and goddesses and shrines. We have made offerings with great respect and awe and have prayed for guidance. That is the attitude you want to have for the space within at this very moment. Whether the entrance to this moment of experience is chaotic and noisy or serene and sublime makes no difference. What is important is your attitude of respect and your ability to draw unwavering attention inward and become conscious of stillness." 

Quietly, I formed the intention to begin my interaction with Rinpoche with those words in mind. I know he often emphasises the three doorways—our body, speech, and mind—as ways to discover and unveil our inherent positive qualities. 

For a moment, many doubts surfaced and I questioned my readiness or ability to sit and interview him one on one. But, in moments of self-doubt, I simply drop into my heart and feel a quiet depth of love. I connect with my goodness within, and trust that I have the capacity to handle what is in front of me. I had prepared well, and if I come from a place of love (and an attitude of respect, as the passage in the book had referred to), all would be ok. I know the place of reverence, and believe we should offer that to everyone we meet (or at least try to). 

When I walked in, the film crew was taking a break, huddled around some bananas and croissants. And Rinpoche sat towards the end of the long wooden table, eating a small amount of lunch. I sat beside him to introduce myself and explain a bit about the purpose of the interview I would be doing with him. 

His small stature was no indication of his energetic presence. I immediately became aware of his smile. And his eyes. And the whole time we were speaking, I was subtly aware of this sense of presence. My heart expanded and there was a quiet feeling of happiness surrounding me, and I felt as if I was observing something which was to remain unspoken. But if I had to name it, I essentially felt deeply honoured and immensely grateful.

There are particular moments in life where time seems to stand still, and you sense this particular moment is a convergence and realisation of many, many previous moments. This was one of them.

And there was a lot of love surfacing within me. Which I knew was a good sign and an auspicious start.

Before my interview, I listened to a conversation he had with Katiza Satya, a wise sage of a woman, who is a very powerful teacher, herself. She asked him a question about how he had developed this ability to translate such deep teachings from the East in ways that were accessible and easy for the Western student to understand and apply.

His answer was so beautiful and will forever remain within me, as a golden pearl of wisdom on a special chain of pearls that I wear around my heart.

He smiled and said simply, “I learned to listen.”

After a short pause, he continued. “I listened to my students. I listened to what they needed and how their minds worked. I learned more from my students, during that time, than they learned from me.” 

I became very quiet inside. When deep truth is spoken, if you pay attention, a chord is plucked within you, and there is a silent sound of resonance, which is immensely satisfying. 

I first became aware of humility. The cornerstone and defining characteristic of all great masters. And he was demonstrating it so beautifully before all of us. 

I then began to think of what the world would be like if we all learned to listen like that. To listen without judgment. To listen with love and true interest. To listen with the attitude of learning. To let go of criticism, of “why can’t they be different?” or “if only they would think differently, this would be so much easier.” To truly take the time to learn how others work, what others truly need, and to respect our different ways of thinking, our million varied perspectives.

I suspect listening (truly listening) is a key to unlocking more peace and harmony in our individual and collective lives. It brings us together. It allows us to know one another. To see one another, fully. It provides a tonic of healing and connectedness to a world often jaded by convoluted self-interest.

I felt, deep in my heart that day, the true power of listening, and imagine a world where we all embrace listening as a sacred practice. I believe there is much, much to learn from one another if we try. 

About Deborah Quibell

Often called a wandering seeker, Deborah came into yoga after immersing herself for years in the study of prana and the subtle body (with the founder of Pranic Healing). She is trained at the 500-hour level, and founded her own studio in Atlanta, GA in 2011, which she sold upon relocating to Europe.