When I joined my first UU Wellspring group, I found the guideline of “No fixing, no saving, no advising, no setting each other straight” to be very difficult. I come from a long line of extroverted know-it-alls. It was really hard to not offer teensy bits of counsel to a struggling fellow participant. I mean, what’s the harm in some caring suggestions? After all, it was easy to see what others in the group needed to do to improve or get unstuck! But over the months, as I dealt with my own spiritual questions and “aha” moments, I found it a relief to not get any simplistic advice from others.
Recently I read a passage from beloved spiritual teacher Ram Dass that gave me a fabulous metaphor for becoming a better listener. Maybe it will help you too!
“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”