“One of the simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.” — Gloria Steinem
Way back when I was a student and budding practitioner of psychotherapy, I took refuge in the wise words of writer/therapist Sheldon Kopp. He borrowed the title for his book “If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!” from an ancient Buddhist Koan. In it, he warns psychotherapy clients that although the therapist has a powerful role, the therapist himself must not be regarded as the all-knowing, perfected Buddha, but rather, the fellow wounded human helper that he really is. We are each responsible for our own growth, and if we forgo that knowing and responsibility by elevating and subserviently following another on any path, our growth will be limited by our own attachment.
I’ve been active on a new social media platform called Blab, and I love it. Blab has inspired me to create and join existing live video-conversations on a variety of enlightening topics — modern romance, leadership war-gaming, the necessity of personal power in Africa, and finding the sacred in the mundane, to name a few. In these incredibly rich discussions I engage with thought leaders, healers, tech gurus, and craftspeople (even a coal miner!) from different races, religions and countries.
Anyone can be a Buddha on Blab. All you have to do is open your mouth and share your unique perspective. Conversations with interesting topics that resonate with me (there are plenty on Blab that don’t) elicit a teaching / learning environment. It’s a new medium, and there are emerging stars — but refreshingly no Gurus. There are many wise leaders who start original conversations, and those that change the direction of existing ones.
The only “Buddha” I have to worry about is the false one that arises within me, the one a little too eager to share my wisdom. I end up blabbing away. Maybe it’s nerves. Or the exciting new potential for making an impact. Maybe it’s the mercenary aspect of all social media platforms — we’re there to connect, to build community and also, to showcase our wares.
You may never visit Blab, but you may have your own version of blabbing away, i.e., talking too much, or loving the sound of your own voice just a little (or a lot) more than is useful: At home, in meetings, at work, over coffee. Blab has reminded me of how easy it is to disconnect from our initial reason for opening our mouths and from the point we set out to make. It clearly reveals what happens when we get tipsy on our own thinking and stumble into irrelevant terrain.
More and more, when I meet my ego dressed up as Buddha in the middle of the screen, I am learning to “kill” it — aka shut off the mic and listen more. Rather than competing to share, the feeling of urgency to do so becomes a signal instead to step back, activate my curiosity, and make space inside to digest another’s ideas (and spit them out if need be). When I do share, I strive — with occasional considerable difficulty — to find a way to stay on point and be succinct.
We are all equal peddlers in this new cyber marketplace of thoughts and ideas. We don’t need to be perfect, but responsible purveyors. Here’s my Blab Koan: If you see the Buddha in the middle of your Blab, ask her where she got that headset that makes her sound so good. And then, if you feel drawn to learn more, if she has a website.
Blair’s Blab runs Thursdays at 2pm ET, and then in 2016, also on Wednesdays at 8pm ET. Join Twitter first and then follow Blair on Blab to get notifications.
A lovely reminder to activate our ears and all senses to being present and listening! So true: To know when to listen is as critical as knowing when to speak. Sometimes we hear people hurting and want to help and we open our mouths. We may forget how powerfully healing listening is until we are in need of it and we ourselves find great comfort in the presence of a wise listener. Thank you for sharing, Blair!
Thanks so much for your insights here. Your words about listening ring true!
You make a great point about the healing power of listening, and how difficult it can be for people to access when in the face of other’s pain.
Thank you so much for reading and sharing your wisdom here.