With Thanksgiving approaching, I was asked to write about gratitude. When I look around me, I am grateful for a lot of things (family, home, work, health, etc.), but as I thought about the request, I began to see that what I was most thankful for right now was silence.
We are a pretty 'talkative' nation. I notice how much time I spend talking, at work, at home, in writing, in 'blogging,' in just doing my day-to-day activities. I like to get up very early in the morning (before others wake up) because it is quiet and I don't have to talk - either out loud or 'in my head.' I am really grateful for experiences that allow me to be quiet, to just listen to the sounds of others. Sometimes we spend so much time focused on what we do, letting others know what we do, telling others about our successes, failures, thoughts and feelings, we forget to just be quiet and listen.
Sunday, I heard Barack Obama on 'Meet the Press' discussing his motivations, beliefs, and intentions (if elected President) to improve our lives as Americans and our image (through our actions) around the world. What I heard several times in his discussions with Tim Russert was that he would 'listen' to other world leaders - even to those with whom he strongly disagrees. He mentioned the word listen at least three times, maybe more.
I am convinced that we need a leader who listens, listens to the American people, listens to his/her advisers, and listens to the leaders of other countries around the world. If one can listen, truly listen, before taking action, the actions taken will likely be more beneficial to oneself and the world. I remember that Gandhi adopted a 'day of silence' once each week, perhaps to learn how to be a better listener.
I have been serving on jury duty this month and the experience has been interesting because I have been asked to 'listen,' not render a judgment before all the facts are revealed, not form an opinion until deliberation begins. It is an exercise in listening. As my normal job requires lots of talking (lecturing, writing, meetings), I have felt a great reprieve in the silence of this altered experience.
I see that 'listening' isn't all that easy, to really stay open to what someone else is saying - to not immediately form opinions based on your own past experiences - is really a challenge, one that takes constant effort if you wish to succeed. But to become a good listener, one must first 'stop talking,' so in one way, the conscious act of just 'being quiet' is a step in the right direction of developing the skill of listening.
As I look forward to Thanksgiving and my children returning from colleges to hang out together, I am consciously going to talk less and figure that I will hear a lot more. I have a lot of gratitude for all the wonderful things in my life, but right now I am most grateful that I can chose to speak less and listen more. I can chose to enjoy the sounds of others speaking, the hum of life around me, and even the less frequent, sound of silence.
For more tips on preparing for the holiday season, click here for more from Huffington Post's Living!