Giving thanks and the gift of listening

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Dear friends, 

This is my first off-the-road newsletter. Like any off-roading adventure I don't know what's ahead, but I'm excited. I'm also intimidated by the empty horizon, much like I used to panic before the blank canvas in art class. Where to begin? What do I have to say? Do I have anything to say?? Why am I talking?!

WAIT - that's an acronym I learned in Al-Anon. Why AI Talking? I love that, though I rarely remember. If you're not familiar Al-Anon is a sister program to Alcoholics Anonymous for anyone who's life has been affected by someone else's drinking or substance abuse. Attendees are invited to take turns sharing their experiences without being interrupted, advised, or questioned. Everyone else simply listens. Which isn't so simple.  

When I lived in Venice I went to Al-Anon meetings every Tuesday night after work. At first I dreaded adding another hour of fluorescent lighting to my day - never mind having to face icky feelings with a roomful of strangers (without the chords!) - but I soon witnessed the healing power of listening. It is an act of love often overlooked in our busy, noisy lives. Onstage I've learned to not take it for granted. When you listen, the music comes to life. It is released, we are connected. Love. Gratitude. Awe.

However a 12-step meeting is not a concert. There is no stage, no fancy lighting, no applause. There's only the truth, and the truth can hurt. Yet they also say it can set us free. In surprising ways. At first I thought the meetings were so lame, and what an idiot I was, with my penchant for addicts, and there were so many better things I could be doing with my time, but I was destined to be with these losers forever. 

YIKES. Fortunately I wasn't alone with my thoughts - I was with a group of people and their (similar) thoughts. And the beauty of uninterrupted sharing is that the person speaking has the healing experience of being seen and heard, and the person receiving has the healing opportunity of seeing and hearing. We see ourselves in each other's wounds. By witnessing each other's honesty and bravery we begin to identify our own. Through loving others we learn to love ourselves. Alchemy. Compassion. Grace. 

In the coming days and weeks many of us will have opportunities to see and hear people we haven't seen or heard in a long time. In can be painful. It can be joyful. It can be everything in between. The Holidays are an extra busy, noisy time and it's easy to overlook or misunderstand. We're confronted not by who is sitting in front of us, but by who we have missed during long lapses of growth and evolution. Who are these people?! Seeing someone we once thought we knew better than ourselves (do we ever know these selves?) we're shocked to discover a stranger at her place-setting. We feel strange. And we have two options - close or open? judge or listen? protect or learn?

What if we approach our family members as we would approach people we don't know? After all, do we really know them? Have we lived in their brains all these years, or might they have legitimate thoughts, feelings, and perspectives we're not aware of? What if we approach our own thoughts and feelings as we would approach people we don't know? Might we be a little kinder, gentler, more present with a stranger? Might we meet a new friend?

Just some thoughts passing through my brain as I practice listening... there's so much to hear. So much to be grateful for. So much to wonder about. So much to love. So much I've missed. 

Thank you for listening, for sharing, and for showing up to the table. Remember you're never alone. :) 

If you need something to listen to all CDs (and t-shirts) are on sale through The Holidays. I love to gift-wrap so please specify if you'd like me to. I promise not to use glitter this time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cygne