Living lifelong human care, development, education, learning and service for all.
Chang, my 6 year old friend, wisely advised me, “Listen to children.” Recently, I have been reading about contemplative prayers, the advice seems to distil to this as well: Prayer is listening. If we are then to live a life of prayer – in thoughts, in heart, in action, in inner self – we are in effect, to live a life of listening.
If everyone lives a life of listening deeply, there will be fewer words, fewer symbols, fewer rituals, fewer rush to get points across. The other day, during an intensive work session, I got over-excited and in mid-breath, tried to shove my point across, and I – choked. Yes, literally. I started choking and coughing on a tiny piece of fries, and could not get a single word out. It was truly humbling and I was truly grateful for the small and yet great reminder to listen, listen, listen, listen and listen. I died to my ego instantly, and then the discussion flowed and we arrived at a sublime unanimous position.
Gradually, we will slowly learn to observe, to see more, and hear more, and discern more. Gradually, we will see, hear, know ourselves more. My daughter, who is 9, is sitting next to me now, asking me why I am always at the computer, and said, “Isn’t it bad for your eyes?” I replied, without looking at her, “I am doing work.” She then said, “I don’t know what to do; watch you?” She then started to tinker on the next computer too, not being content to just watch me. Then, she started asking me questions, such as, what’s her grandmothers’ maiden surnames. I answered her, gave her the facts, still not listening deeply to her question, to her need. And still not looking up at her. Then she read over my shoulder, gave a howl of protest regarding me writing about her, and then walked away.
So, I decided to pack away my writing, die to my own need for inner conversation, die to my own self-absorbed silence, and then suddenly she re-appeared, and giggling, we decided to co-write this piece together, and my heart soared: I am living listening, I am living being in prayer!
Here’s what my daughter, Beth, 9, says to adults:
1. Don’t get cross so fast.
2. Calm yourself down.
3. Listen to what happened first.
4. Listen to everybody (even things and non-living things).
5. Spend more time playing.
6. Don’t work so much.
7. Relax when you are stressed.
8. Don’t get stressed.
9. Listen to advice (especially from children please).
10. Children can help.
Listen to our children. They see, hear, know much much more than we think they do, and definitely much much more than we do.
Peng-Ean Khoo and Beth Cham
Sept 16, 2012