Talking and listening
Having a fair amount of conversations with people that have each their own beliefs, lifestyle or religion, I found the hardest part of each conversation to keep an open dialogue. I feel that the real meaning and practice of a dialogue is misunderstood most of the time. Conversations become more like discussions or disputes. I noticed how quick an opinion is regarded as an assault or something that has to be corrected right away.
People trying to convince each other and pushing their believes instead of listening. In this article I share my views on this.
A tiny bit of my history
I have had conversations with a swami, some bishops, several priests, many witches, energyworkers, "lightworkers", druids, shamans, pagans, jews, christians, buddhists, atheists, Hindu, people who have mixed beliefs and people with their own beliefs and closed community. So all kinds of people and from different standards in life. These conversations took place during my life since I was about 18. Even when I was 13 years old I could not resist to talk about esothery and philosophy (I was not aware of these words profoundly at that time) with several adults who were known to my family.
Since childhood I have been trying to understand people and Life in general. Because I listened in silence, people would start to talking to me. Kids from my age and older people. They approached me and just started talking. Somethimes I heard them say:"Why am I telling you this?" and walk away.
During my adolescence this happened more often and even strangers would talk to me and start about their ways of life and their troubles. Something in me was triggering them to tell me their problems. At about the age of 18 I followed my first edcuation in Social Care and would proceed with a second one three years later. Over time I grew more curious ad started asking questions in what people would feel, think and do. I got interested in psychology and philosophy and would visit the Library often. I could listen very well but I had to learn to ask questions that would be helpfull and sensible. I finished my Study in Social Care in 2001 with a Bachelor degree. I worked in various healthcare settings for elderly peope, children and Youth. After that and during my studies I have done a lot of other things t keep me busy and evolving.
Room for life experiences and beliefs that are not yours.
For me personally it does not matter -at all- what belief, religion or lifestyle a person has.
It does matter to me what intention a person has and actually does and show in behaviour.
A person can talk, plead or preach a lot, but the actions speak more truth. Also, the body does not lie.
I remember vividly situations during my childhood with a catholic based group I grew up in. There was no room for my early childhood life experiences with multidimensional beings and spirits. Yes, like a particular movie; I have seen dead people too. But that is not the interesting part here. I want to focus on the way people can deny someone the freedom to talk about a subject that has meaning and value.
I have seen demon-like figures, experienced Loving and caring beings that guided and protected me. I have had poltergeist-like experiences too in a house I grew up in. And "touched on shoulder" feelings in old monestaries. I have met suïcided persons in houses. Even walked through a 'ghost' on the stairs outside to my front door. Felt and heard a cat-spirit jumping of my bed and running down the stairs. I have visited different realms, received visions and lessons. This and more but hey! It is just part of the Universe and Life.
But as I wrote above, these experiences were absolutely not welcome in the groups I was partially raised in during my childhood. And honestly my parents did not actually know how to deal with my experiences either. Somethimes my Father knew something to say but most of the time I was on my own in this matter.
At this catholic group, called The Focolare, I wanted to talk about my experiences because they were part of my daily life. sadly I was told by an elder not to speak about this in the group. And secondly - very contradicting - I had to share my experience of the past week(s). The group was formed to talk about good deeds and about struglings we encountered in doing good deeds and being a good brother, son, friend, person in general.... Love eachother as if they were your borther or sister in the name of God or Jesus. Etcetera.
My stories frightened the other children. So I had to shut my mouth even though I still had to participate in the group.
I call these sessions: "My first Contradictions" ; ) It was very confrontational because the group was so called "open for other beliefs and religions" But in fact, they were not. (and stil are not able to open up)
So when I became older and went into adulthood I said a definitly goodbye forever to this 'community'.
For this and for more reasons. So this is an example of a dilemma I encountered at a young age when having a conversation with others about matters they do not understand or do not experience. And it made me very clear that if something does not "exist" for a person, it is very hard to be heard and accepted.
I have a dogma
Of course I have personal dogma's. They are formed by my own personal experiences. I cannot part from them because they are part of me and I cannot deny or discarded them as being fantasy. Especially when there are witnesses in many cases. My core believes are not something that were formed by reading a book or what is told me to believe. Therefor I will cherish my experiences since birth, my feelings, memories and visions. These are my truth. It would be awkward and feels deeply against my Soul to discard them in order to please others.
I believe it is hard to live without any dogma's. Something you belief to be so true it almost becomes a 'law'. It is so much more then an opinion or thought. Being aware of your own dogma's and fear for what is unfamiliar could help in the way you communicate with someone else that has different beliefs, visions and experiences.
Some months ago I was asked to participate in a project of global wide dialogue with Roman Catholics .
They wanted to: "start a dialogue between people who believe and people who had other views and thoughts".
And here is the errorcatch. They did not mention "other beliefs" instead they mentioned "views and thoughts".
Meaning that my beliefs are merely thoughts or views. Again this was a false start of a conversation. That is no start for a true Dialogue. Anyway I agreed upon an interview that has been recorded on video (in Dutch only).
Maybe someday I will share this video openly. For now I have it in my archive.
What do I find important during a dialogue?
For me, a dialogue comes with several important 'rules' on behaviour and communication (skills).
All joining parties must be able to keep a dialogue. If one of the other parties is not able to listen and open to the other. It cannot take place because then it will become a dispute or 'just' a conversation with closed borders.
Also I like to mention that I don't think that a dialogue is a virtual place in which you lose yourself in the other or "become" the other. This concept is something I read in a catholic paper. This would suggest a dissociation from oneself. I prefer to stay centered at all times and tell from your own Spirit, Soul, experience etcetera and listen to the other with an open mind and heart. Not to "join' or 'merge' with the other to lose oneself.
So, maybe this concept I read is foundation for the fear I felt and saw so many times when I was talking about my experiences and my beliefs. If someone indeed would try to lose him/herself with me, it would be a stressful experience indeed.
I found these points to be helpful for a dialogue:
- Make absolutely clear that you want to start a dialogue and make sure the other wants it too!
- If possible give a time-frame or agree upon the way you could end the dialogue.
- Listen without interrupting the speaker (don't hijack conversation)
- Give room (on time) for others to contemplate and process information and feelings.
>>this could mean that a dialogue has to be split up into sessions.
- Give room for the other (on time) to speak as well. (again, don't hijack conversation)
- Withhold any form of criticism and cynicism on what a speaker shares! Instead listen! You don't have to agree.
- Do not fill in what others feel or think! Rather ask what the other thinks or feels without giving judgement.
- Do not sway another in your own favor for believing your belief, views or thoughts to be thé (only) truth.
- Do not demand the other to believe your faith or beliefs.
- Don't push your believes and visions. Instead tell about your experiences and views from your standpoint.
- Do not talk in third person. Keep talking from yourself and your own perspective.
- If you want to talk about another person, don't fill in what he/she thought or felt. Keep to the facts.
- if you want to talk about what you read. Be clear that you tell it is what you have read.
- Be clear if you do or do not logically understand the viewpoint of the other (even if you do not agree).
- Be able to ask open questions to understand more about a subject when something is not clear to you
- Have patience with yourself and the other when talking and listening.
- Stay true to yourself. Do not get tempted to please the other. So do not bend any way the wind blows.
- Deal with your emotions that come up and own your shit. Don't bother the other with your drama's.
- if possible tell if you have boiling emotions and be honest to yourself and the other to stop or continu with the dialogue. Don't cross your limit.
- Be polite and show respect for all participants.
- Make clear if you want to end the dialogue and thank the other. Leave in peace.
- Do not go into discussion / dispute after a dialogue. Leave in peace.
- Take time(!) to process the dialogue for yourself in peace.
It seems a lot maybe. But actually these points are part of eachother.
Simple put: A dialogue is a way to share experiences, visions and believes without discussion.
A dialogue cannot be used to convince another of your 'reality'.
In a dialogue I am prepared to set aside my dogma's to open up to the other person and their experiences.
I have to admit that my patience runs out very quickly when I notie the other party wants to convince me to believe something. A dialogue gives the opportunity to find answers and new insights. My reality is my own but maybe there is more to it what I haven't discovered yet. I am certain there is more in the Universe then only my experiences, visions and believes. In the end it is up to me to believe the reality of someone else or not. Least I can do is accepting that this is part of reality in the whole (picture).
I don't have to agree with another person in Heart, Soul and Mind. I don't have to become the other to connect on the level of Soul and understanding. I will not lose my Identity and won't lose my own fate or belief.
Religion, Beliefs and Dialogue
The obstacles I have experienced during dialogs about religion and belliefs are: dogma's, fear and stigma's .
Example - dogma
My several experiences with priests are that they tend to bring God or Jesus continuously into the conversation.
I call this the excuse-card. Jesus said (...) God wants to (...)
This has nothing to do with the priest himself. It does not actually and really present what he himself is experiencing or believes in. It is quoting a book. So this is not suitable for a dialogue. it is fitting for a preach.
But the Priest used his Dogma to convince or sway me to Believe in something other then himself.
I'd rather not bring my dogma into the converstation. I don't tell him about my witnesses and my experiences to proof something but to tell about the experience itself. What it does to me as a person. I can only tell from within myself, my experience and what I see, how I see the world or universe.
The priest could talk about how he sees the world and how is experiences it and what he feels. His actual life experiences and life views and what he beliefs. Not from books and not what he thinks or believes someone else did or would have done. He also could talk about why he beliefs something.
Example - fear
I have met people who work with dark magic. Not my cup ot thee and certainly not my way of living.
Most of the time I don't agree with their visions. There are some thoughts I can follow although it is not may path to follow. It is possible to have a dialogue with someone who has completely different views, opinions, beliefs and way of living and expressing.
There is always a chance that fear might visit you when entering a dialogue with someone who believes the opposite of what you believe. I have my doubts and fears in the past and somethimes I still experience them because it is - I believe so - in the nature of human fear a certain death of it's existence. Even when it is not physical. Let's say it is the fear of losing control of yourself and your believes. Fear of losing fundamental beliefs and entering the void, a new dark area you have never (adared) to enter and explore. because you can't connect to it. Cannot comprehend òr because you absolutely feel to the core of your own Soul it does not resonate and don't want to change your inner core vibration with the song of the other. "Dissonances".
I have met people who had (and probably still have) strong dogma's and beliefs that differ from mine. They actively wanted to "convert" me into a believer of their religion / belief system.
Their opinions on others was firm and sometimes even harsh. I experienced and felt fear at that moment. Fear of this energy and vision I could not make mine but somehow I touched it. I felt a part of it that was not comfortable for me. This essentual and primal feeling deep inside me was actual fear at the moment my core being was touched. I did not want to lose myself into something I do not want to become.
Since this experice I can imagine and understand the anxiousness and fears that people can experience when they are confronted with realities that they are not familiar with or uncomfortable with to even talk about. Subjects that conflicts with inner beliefs, state of mind and perception.
The Fear of not being heard or seen - Spirituality
A classical one. Every person wants to be heard and seen. Even the persons that are shy or say they don't want to be seen. They want acknowledgement of their existence however maybe not bothered by others in their lives.
Within many spiritual movements there is EGO that is shouting for acknowledgement and it takes may forms to get it's attention; Pride, delusion, dependency, worshipping...
I lost count the times I heard people say something like:
" My master sees more than yours", " They are not ready yet", "I am enlightened", "I am a master"
People claim and people preach. People are trying their best to be heard and CONVINCE another of their TRUTH.
Nowadays I find amusement in it. But there were many years my toes would crawl up as if they were seeking shelter inside my own feet. because Truth is what you believe is truth. In science the truth is real until another law is discovered and the new truth has been accepted as the truth.
In my opinion, knowing the truth is knowing something has truth in the existence of your being. But it doesn't make it True to another Soul per sé