“When I have been listened to and when I have been heard, I am able to perceive my world in a new way and to go on. It is astonishing how elements which seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens.” -Carl Rogers
Lately, I have had the honor and privilege to create and deliver a workshop on love and positivity for a handful of cancer patients and survivors. Our weekly curriculum is a combination of my years of love contemplation layered with the positivity training about which I have become passionate. It is the most deeply rewarding work I have done in years. I have given up the idea that I have anything to teach anyone, finally understanding that there is no telling anyone anything that they do not wish to know. Instead, I am in awe of the learning that happens within the shared intention of listening deeply both to ourselves and to the sacred intimate connections that emerge without effort, even among strangers when we ask authentic questions about who we are. Increasingly, I am convinced that any idea of planning how things will go is nothing but fiction that I busy my mind with and which ultimately distracts me from the moment at hand.
In my radio interview this week with Pulitzer nominated, bestselling author of the Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nick Carr, clarified the biologically rooted historic challenges all humans have faced in harnessing and directing our attention. In this the development of the Internet and all its myriad digital delivery systems is not our friend, but instead is re-programming our neurological capacity to focus our thinking at the cellular level. Invisibly we are shifting the fabric of our neurological programming towards an ever increasing speed of shallow surfing in an endless stream of chatter and information. Not only are we losing our skills in discerning what truly matters, but more critically we are losing the pace at which it takes our minds to comprehend, contemplate, and turn the stuff of our life into the wisdom we need to make it worthwhile.
One of the most critical processes which turns experience into the wisdom that ultimately defines who we are as well as the quality of our relationships is the mental transition of memory from short to long term. This is a process that requires time to reflect and reorganize internally and is at the foundation of our uniquely human capacity to remember ourselves. What kind of human civilization will evolve from this loss? We see glimpses in the culture we are building that is so focused on speed of delivery, but not on what is delivered. These are the same minds we bring to our ability to be known in relationship, which may well explain the shallows we are wading in there as well.
I have hit a wall of late, realizing that like many, the hurried Internet speed of life has translated into a pace in my life that does not allow me to hold it, reflect on it and transform it into the wisdom I need to live. Menopause has burned many of the emotional and attention reserves that I took for granted. I no longer have the luxury of following the endless distractions pulling at my focus. I want to harness my attention for listening to the authentic questions of this life and translating that experience into the critical heart work that trains me in the ability to feel more, to love more. What I know from my new friends in the cancer circle is this: that we are all, every day facing a life and death moment and to do so with less than our full attention is the biggest tragedy of all. Take the time to make memories that last out of this day so you know who you are.