I posted a question on my FB writer’s page asking if people felt listened to.


One wise woman, the other girl in my elementary school class who protected me from being the only girl in our class of seven because the other five were boys, noted she thought that people could listen but also wanted time to tell their stories.  The last time we met she reported working as a bartender so I imagine she listens to lots of stories; I’m glad she feels people listen to her. Another woman that I have known for years, though not quite as many as the first woman, noted that she often didn’t feel listened to; there was a hint of sadness in her words others did not pay attention when she spoke. I flashed on the comments many women made when I was a practicing psychotherapist: “The older I get, the more invisible I feel. People don’t seem to see me anymore.”


I asked the question on FB because I was thinking about writing this blog post on attention.  I was thinking that it takes attention to listen to someone. While I was pondering the connection between listening and attention, I opened up my daily meditation email from Susan Piver at the Open Heart Project to find this perfect quote:


“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”  Simone Weil*


Wow – I thought – I never fully realized that giving someone else attention would qualify as an act of generosity but that makes sense.   


My anxiety makes it hard to listen at times. I find myself interrupting and asking questions like, but what about __________, not remembering that this is a time when NO one knows the answers to the questions that seem so pertinent when I’m anxious. 


If I try to calm my own anxiety and look for a middle place in my mind where I’m not panicked, I’m not shutting down, then I’m using what I’ve learned in a decade of Freudian psychoanalysis. This is a difficult time for everyone. Perhaps if we offer the gift of attention through listening, someone will find momentary relief. And we will find the middle place, the place that Buddhist’s describe as being sharper than the razor’s edge.


How are you managing to care for yourself and others during this time of uncertainty?  Does it make sense to you that the middle place is sharper than a razor’s edge?


Please share if you have thoughts that would help me and others. You can scroll down and leave a message in comment section. 



CLUE for enhancing your one wild and precious life: Pick a day and resolve to listen to each person you interact with. Really listen. See how you feel afterwards. Let me know.


IMAGE: The Guardian listens.


*To sign up for the Open Heart Project or get more information go to SusanPiver.com 



10 Responses

  1. Just what so many of us need in this moment–to stop and listen, to pay attention to each other and not to all the noise.
    Thank you for this!

    • Thank you Diane. The noise is sometimes deafening I know – so it’s a challenge!

      I appreciate your taking your precious time to read and comment.

    • Feeling lucky that our income is not affected by all the turmoil and that we don’t have the need to go out.

      • Thanks for checking in Nolan. I’m glad that you are wise enough to appreciate your blessings. I keep thinking about how Dad said,
        “I wonder how everything will turn out.” What would he have thought of all this? I wonder how things will turn out and what is going
        to unfold in the next few months – and that’s when I think of him.

        Enjoy your solitude and safety and keep in touch. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • My husband, the most influential person in my entire life, didn’t listen to me. So I grew to believe that I had nothing worth saying; still with a stubborn nugget of thinking that I really did in the deep recesses of my mind. Although I am trying to consider he couldn’t help himself it still does not remove the sadness for what should have been. I am 80 now and everything is shifting. Although frightened, I am working on a ‘second blooming’ as written by one of my favorite local writers – Susan Cushman. I want to really listen to those I encounter. The mind is a beautiful thing.

      • Shirley – Your description of what silenced you – and many of us – is beautiful in it’s accuracy and simplicity. I
        notice that you are responding to a post by Diane Gottlieb so I will be sure and let her know.

        The sadness for what could have been is something that I am also dealing with after a decade in psychoanalysis learning
        how I shut down and blame others. If only I would have known earlier, how would my life be different?

        I love the phrase second blooming and will look up Susan Cushman’s work.

        Thank you for continuing the conversation!

  2. I agree that attention is a gift. I strive to look people in the eye and really listen when they are talking to me. When my three 4-year-old grandchildren talk to me, I get on their eye level and listen closely. What better way to express love and show validation of someone’s thoughts than to give undivided attention. With all the noise in the world, I find it a relief to focus on the interaction with the person/people with me at the moment.

    • THREE four year old grandchildren! Wow – you are blessed! I love the image of you bending down to look them in the eye.
      They are very lucky to have a grandmother who listens to them. Research indicates the importance of grandparents
      in a child’s life so what you are doing it important.

      I found your statement that it is a relief to listen at the moment an invitation to calm ourselves while helping others.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. Hi Nicky, in you email version, you had the picture of the Guardian sideways to show her laying down for comfort. I loved that by changing the tilt of a picture it could invite a new meaning…kinda like when the flag is turned upside down to indicate distress. Today we held worship in Northeast Nebraska, we have a small group and there was no proclamations by officials to close such gatherings. Prayers about the uncertainty of this time, and the promises of God to be with us, gives me comfort and I hope others. I shared this week on the church facebook page a quote that came from the Eden Seminary President (in St. Louis), after the school decided to complete the semester online…no face to face classes due to Covid-19. He said that the prophet Isaiah did not proclaim “fear not” because there where no things to fear, but that “we are held by something more powerful than fear, love…” The words ‘fear’ and ‘love’ got my attention this week.

    • Hi Jackie!
      The Guardian in different positions was actually because of I lacked technical skills to turn around – but I’m glad you liked it. It is interesting to think
      what a different position can indicate. You as a painter would notice that.

      Comforting to think of your congregation praying about uncertainty. I had a client once who told me that we needed to learn to “Celebrate Uncertainty”
      I wasn’t sure how to respond to that at the time but have since begun to realize her wisdom. I’m having trouble celebrating not knowing what is going
      to happen with the corona virus so I loved your quote that Isaiah didn’t say fear not because there was nothing to fear. There is always something to
      be afraid of but tuning into love helps us to fear not. Great words for our times.

      Thank you so much for sharing, reading, and checking in!

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