All the Insight Dialogue guidelines are fundamental to establishing the meditative qualities for Insight Dialogue relational practice. Without first Pausing, Relaxing, Opening and Attuning to Emergence, I do not know how it would be possible to Listen Deeply and Speak the Truth. In that spirit, during a recent Insight Dialogue practice that I co-facilitated with my guide and mentor, Jan Surrey (bio below), I paused and directed attention both inward and outward, and then called on all of those guidelines to discern what might want to be spoken in that moment. I heard myself saying that not only people but all of nature listens and speaks and that I always come back to gratitude.
Listening Deeply makes use of the amazing receptive capacity of our sensitive body-heart-minds. We can harness energy and mindfulness to direct attention both outward and inward at the same time. There is deep beauty in opening to the internal and external flow of all that we can sense. That can provide access to wisdom and compassion in that moment, the moment we are alive. Still, I sometimes get lost in my own responses. When that happens, I gently return to mindfulness with kindness and compassion. There is a lot going on at the same time. We take in words and match those with meanings and associations. We take in tones of voice, and changing facial expressions. We participate in the flowing “music” arising between us. Deep listening as meditative practice means allowing oneself to be touched by the unexpected, to open to whatever arises. Awe is possible, so is learning to welcome being influenced.
Speaking the Truth involves listening internally, discerning, and then speaking emerging truth in relation to a specific contemplation. Not stating what we think is true about the topic. Not sharing theoretical, or scientific truth. We use the support of the Insight Dialogue guidelines Pause, Relax, Open, Attune to Emergence, and Listen Deeply in relation to the contemplation. We draw on the whole body-heart-mind in investigating and speaking with an intention to adopt the teachings on wise speech: to speak what is true and not false; to speak what is beneficial and timely – is it appropriate to say that now? We attempt to speak in a way that is gentle, nonviolent and kind, and finally, to speak from compassion with an intention to liberate from suffering. We take care, knowing that speaking like listening, can influence us and others in ways that matter.
Listening and speaker inter are and work together. The wisdom of bringing attentive care to listening and speaking is clear from many Buddhist teachings:
Right View (Anguttara Nikaya): “there are these two conditions for the the arising of right view, Which two? The voice of another and appropriate (or wise) attention.”
The Holy Life (Kalyanamittata): “Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life.”
Right Speech (Samma Vaca) “One tries to abandon wrong speech & to enter into right speech: This is one’s right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong speech & to enter & remain in right speech: This is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort & right mindfulness & run & circle around right speech.”
When listening deeply and speaking the truth something quite remarkable can happen – a working toward and aligning with what is true now. That creates an opening to release and ease that comes from a place beyond the personal. It is also a means to cultivate wisdom and compassion that bring with them a greater capacity for peace, happiness and wise action. In so many small and large ways, we really do practice Listening Deeply and Speaking the Truth for the benefit of all beings.
Instructions for dyad dialogue practice:
I invite you to Pause, Relax, Open, and Attune to Emergence as you explore how Listening Deeply & Speaking the Truth work together.
Structure: – 20 minutes: S1, L1, (switch roles) S2, L2, Open
S1 – Speaker 1 speaks for 4 minutes while Listener 1 listens. Pause
L1 -Listener 1 reflects for 4 minutes on the process of listening. Pause
The Partners switch roles (Listener 1 becomes Speaker 2)
S2 – Speaker 2 speaks for 4 minutes while Listener 2 listens. Pause
L2 – Listener 2 reflects for 4 minutes on the process of listening. Pause
Open – 4 minutes of open exchange with no formal speaker or listener roles.
Note: At the start of dialogue practice, participants take a minute to introduce themselves and determine who will speak first. At the end, participants thank their partners for the opportunity to practice together.
Contemplations for dialogue practice:
When speaking: What do you notice about how your partner’s practice of listening affects you as you Speak the Truth?
When listening: What did you notice about how your partner’s practice of speaking affected you as you Listened Deeply?
During Open Dialogue: What is it like speaking and listening with formal roles dropped?
It Might Sound Like This:
As Speaker: I notice I am pausing to see what is here. There is anxiety about not knowing what to say. Sensing you watching me, I feel a bit self-conscious. Noticing your smile, I feel myself relax. As I pause and settle, I can sense you are not judging me. That is encouraging.
As Listener: I noticed that you really took your time figuring out what to share. That helped me pause and relax. When you tilted your head, I felt welcome. When your tone of voice softened, that affected how I understood your words. I could feel myself bringing in energy, becoming really interested in what you had to say.
I invite you to draw on the support of all the guidelines and make good use of the Pause before, during, and after speaking.
With deep gratitude for all the support and guidance from my Insight Dialogue Teacher, Janet Surrey, who teaches Insight Dialogue retreats worldwide as well as leading a monthly practice group in the Boston area. She serves on the Teachers Council for the Insight Dialogue Community. Starting in 2007, she has been working with Gregory Kramer, founding teacher of Insight Dialogue meditation, a relational meditation practice within the Theravādan Buddhist tradition. She is a practicing clinical psychologist and a founding scholar of the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at Wellesley College. She is also on the board of the Institute for Meditation and Psychology.