How Are You? Really?
Last night I was at the Edmonds-Woodway commencement services. One of the student speakers, Anne Yoon shared her personal story of struggling with anorexia. During her speech she challenged her fellow classmates to press into knowing each other. She told her fellow classmates that many times she answered their question of, “How are you?” with a quick “Fine.” And then went home, sat in her closet and consoled herself by hugging her knees to her chest and crying. She was not okay. She was not okay for nearly 6 years. And yet no one ever asked, “No, really, how are you?”
Tears filled my eyes as my heart resonated with her pain. No, I’ve never suffered from anorexia but yes I too have; falsely, quickly, deceptively answered the question, “How are you?” with “Fine,” when I was anything but. And like Anne, most days no one heard what my heart, soul was screaming, what I was too un-trusting to admit, that “I wasn’t okay and that I too had been crying in my closet.” My lack of trust in others has often been met with a lack of hearing on others part.
Listening is not adequate if our ultimate goal is transformational relationships. If relationship is what we desire we must press past these social niceties and polite, unsubstantial habits to a more mindful, soulful way of showing up. A way of showing up in which we hear not merely listen.
Soul and heart hearing is the skill that ushers relationships to the deepest level. It’s a way of being that makes words irrelevant. It’s the place where attunement is fine, where feelings are known, felt. Soul listening entails showing up with your heart open and receptive. It’s engagement of two or more human beings not human doings. It’s listening with your whole body. It’s quieting your responses, agenda and ego long enough to step into the sacred space of attending to another. It’s selfless and it’s holy. When you are blessed with people who really hear you, who press pass inconsequential greetings, who truly care, who hear with their entire being, trust grows. Soul and heart listening create a trusted safe place, an opportunity for you and I to come out of our closets, be honest and engage authentically in being known and knowing each other.
I don’t want to merely listen to you. I want to hear you. I want to hear what you’re really saying. Not just those words you’re murmuring but rather the truth that simmers below the surface. The truth you’d let out if only you could trust your ugly, uncomfortable, wretched, imperfect self with others.
As I thought about this beautiful, young, courageous girl weeping in the closet I made two commitments.
First, I’m going to being more honest when I answer the question, “How are you?” So if you’re asking to merely make small talk. Please don’t.
Second, I’m going to commit to ‘hearing with my soul and heart’. I’m going to attune my heart and soul, show up present so that when I ask, “How are you?” I can embrace the truth, hold it, press into your answer and steward the holy space that is knowing. I want to press more deeply into hearing you and as I do I pray that I will be as courageous as Anne. That together you and I might reach a deeper understanding of what it truly means to be human, to relate and to be the change we so desperately want and need in our own closets.
So today, I set out to not merely listen, but to open my heart and soul that I might hear yours.
Thanks Anne – you inspired me.
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Photo credit By Cameron Cassan