Listening with Presence and Love

                     By Christine Longaker

 When a friend is in tremendous emotional or physical pain, sometimes we're afraid to go and be with him or her, or afraid of communicating honestly when we visit.  We think we should know how to relieve our friend's pain, or have just the right things to say.  Yet what a person who's suffering most needs is our presence.  What we bring to support a friend is our loving presence.  More than anything we do or say, what helps a person who is suffering is how we are.
 Our presence is an expression of our confidence, the profound love and unqualified respect for others we have come to embody through our spiritual practice.  "How we are" is also connected to our awareness of our own suffering and the extent to which we have worked through our grief.  And finally, our loving presence depends upon our ability to acknowledge and the release our fears and expectations, remaining compassionate and receptive toward the other person.
 Cultivating a daily practice of meditation, and then training ourselves to integrate the mindfulness of meditation whenever we communicate, helps us develop these qualities of loving presence, authenticity, and confidence.
 Listening meditation is more than a relaxation exercise; it is a practice designed to connect us to our innermost essence of wisdom.  When our mind settles deeply in meditation, the conceptual mind and ordinary sense of self may temporarily dissolve, and we experience a gap between our thoughts: a wakeful, clear, radiant awareness unstained by hopes, fears, or habitual projections.  Pursued deeply and sincerely, spiritual practice enables us to purify and release the emotional conditioning and self-grasping ego that separate us from reality.  Listening like this connects us ever more reliably and profoundly to a natural, effortless awareness, in which there is a deep relaxation and spaciousness, an unbounded gratitude, and an all-embracing, joyful compassion.