Listening for its own sake

Edited excerpt from Anger, by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Compassionate listening is not listening with the purpose of analyzing or even uncovering what has happened in the past. You listen first of all in order to give the other person relief, a chance to speak out, to feel that someone finally understands him or her. During this time you have in mind only one idea, one desire: to listen in order to give the other person the chance to speak out and suffer less. This is your only purpose. Other things like analyzing, understanding the past, can be a by-product of this work. But first of all listen with compassion.

Honest praise

From Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big:

Children are accustomed to a continual stream of criticisms and praise, but adults can go weeks without a compliment while enduring criticism both at work and at home. Adults are starved for a kind word.

When you understand the power of honest praise (as opposed to bullshitting, flattery, and sucking up), you realize that withholding it borders on immoral. If you see something that impresses you, a decent respect to humanity insists you voice your praise.

Listening to your best imaginable opponent

From Fellow Trump Critics, Maybe Try a Little Listening by David Brooks:

I’ve been thinking a lot about the best imaginable Trump voter, who wasn’t motivated by racism or bigotry, who needed somebody to change the systems that are failing her.

Thinking about this best voter has helped me take an emotional pause. Many of my fellow Trump critics are expressing outrage, depression, bewilderment or disgust. They’re marching or writing essays: Should we normalize Trump or fight the normalizers?

It all seems so useless during this transition moment. It’s all a series of narcissistic displays and discussions about our own emotional states.

It seems like the first thing to do is really learn what this election is teaching us.

Choosing the pathways of your mind

Excerpt from Lydia Krasilnikova by Prof. Daniel Jackson:

I think the mind is like a forest floor: the more you walk paths the deeper they get and the easier it is to walk them again. When I wasn’t doing so great, there was a path falling into unhappiness, and the more I walked on it, the deeper that path got. It’s important to learn how to tell yourself, “No, I’m not thinking about that right now. As a matter of fact I’m never thinking about that; we’re done here.” Eventually, if you let it, that darker path will get covered up with leaves; the leaves will disintegrate over the winter and by spring there will be new dirt covering it. The path is still there but it’s shallow and small and you don’t have to fall into walking it. In the meantime if you build more positive paths they will become easier and easier to find.

One of the biggest realizations I had is that happiness isn’t something that happens to you. It’s a choice.

Tich Nhat Hanh on love and happiness

From How to Love: Legendary Zen Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh on Mastering the Art of “Interbeing”:

The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person.

You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.

If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.