Explorations and Reflections

on awakening the true self  in education

  • Mick Scott

We tend to confuse our thinking about a relationship with the relationship itself.

Much of the time when we interact with someone, we’re interacting with our thinking: memories, judgments, hopes, or expectations of the person. Our feelings of that person come from previous experiences with them, and the previous experiences become anticipations of how they’ll act this time around too. In other words, when we’re engaging with another person, we’re mostly engaging with the past or the future related to that person.

The issue here, though, is that there’s only ever the present. In the present, the past is a memory and the future is a fantasy, both of which are thoughts. Hence, we tend to confuse our thinking about a relationship with the relationship itself.

True listening can only occur in the present. In a conversation, we may draw on memories from the past, or we may reference hopes, fears, expectations, and fantasies for the future. But listening is a present phenomenon. And while we have judgments, ideas, and criticisms come to mind while listening, we don’t need to feed them with energy or focus. In true listening, we feed with energy our awareness of what the other is actually communicating.

There are four levels in every communication that true listening can hear:

  1. Hear what’s being said. Don’t just listen to the first few words and then think you understand where they’re going. Hear everything they’re saying. If you’re struggling to hear the other person through the filter of your own thinking, then repeat the other person’s words in your head. It’s simple and gets the job done. This allows their spoken thoughts to take precedence in your thinking mind over your own thoughts.

  2. Hear the emotion behind what’s being said. We’re not just hearing a description or a story. There’s a person there talking to us, and people are always feeling something. What is the speaker feeling as they talk to you? What’s the emotion behind what they’re saying.

  3. Hear the commitment or intention behind what’s being said. We’ve always got an intention or commitment behind our communications. Unless we’re practiced at creating specific intentions before conversations, mostly our intentions are default intentions. But they’re still intentions! Examples of intentions or commitments we may hear: being right, surviving, feeling good, making the world a better place, respect and honor, compassion, understanding, etc.

  4. Hear the gold, the genius, the divine in the person expressing themselves. Hearing the gold means finding nuggets of truth or insight in what the other is saying. Humans are beautiful and elegant beings. In all interactions we really can get in touch with the true self of the person we’re talking with. (By true self I mean the unbreakable, untarnishable, perfect spiritual essence at the source of ourselves and each other. If we are breathing, that part of us is there.) Practicing hearing this part of people is the biggest gift we can give them, and it’s likely the biggest gift we can give ourselves too. This is an access to unconditional love.

These four levels of listening may just peel back the illusions of our thinking about the other. When this happens, we get in touch with the person actually there with us, and it's nearly impossible to not get moved by or feel love for who we see.

Thanks so much for reading. ❤️

P.S. Our workshop for adults, Tools We Should’ve Learned Years Ago, is ending this week. I’m so grateful to the participants who have made this such a powerful experience for me and each other. And I'm grateful to you, my readers, who have encouraged me to pursue sharing the transformative power of these ideas.

  • Mick Scott

In Unbreakable, Untarnishable, and Whole, I wrote that the teacher’s power is in listening to the divine inner nature of our students. Yes, teachers could and perhaps should interact with their students as if they’re guiding, supporting, and facilitating the growth and development of inherently well, innately wise, and potentially divine beings. Teachers could see each student as worthy of respect, kindness, honesty, and love, and that each student is on a journey through life and each teacher is a guide.

As a parent, that's certainly how I want teachers interacting with my kids: from respect for my kids’ individuality, their innate well-being and inner genius, and with love.

That’s not only the greatest gift I can imagine giving my students and their families, it’s also the greatest gift I can imagine giving to anyone.

When I write this about the student-teacher relationship, it seems obvious. But where it seems less obvious is in our interactions with other adults. Could we interact with each other as if we are all divine beings worthy of respect, kindness, honesty, and love? Because we are.

We may act in ways that are inconsistent with our fundamental and innate well-being and perfection, but that doesn’t negate the fact that we’re fundamentally perfect.

Like our kids, what if beneath all the memories and judgments about ourselves and others we adults also actually have an unbreakable and untarnishable core of being too? Well, then we’d also want to be listened to as that potential.

When we listen to what another person is saying more than we listen to what we’re thinking about what they’re saying*, that’s respecting another's dignity. When we get into another’s world and value their perspective as much as we value our own, that’s respecting their inner genius. When we trust that within the externals of each person resides a source of life and creativity, that’s respecting another's inner divinity.

What if we really are fundamentally divine, inherently well, and innately wise? What if there really is no where else to get?

What would you stop doing? What would you start doing?

Every once in a while as I’m driving, the feeling of the car pedals and the road beneath me remind me of when I was first learning to drive. While a little scary, learning to drive was also a lot of fun. I could feel every bump in the road and I became intimately aware of the pressure of the pedals beneath my feet. When I am put back into that beginner’s mindset about driving, driving instantly becomes fun and engaging and exciting all over again. I fall in love with driving again.

That’s what it’s like to listen to someone else with honor, compassion, and appreciation. It’s an experience of falling in love. While our judgments may still be there, we become much more interested in the human being we’re engaged with than the ideas, memories, and judgments (positive or negative) that pop into mind without invitation.

Thanks so much for engaging with these ideas. ❤️

* Tip: if you’re having trouble hearing someone else through the loudness of your own thinking, just repeat the other person’s words in your mind while they're talking. Allow their expressed thoughts to take the place of your own thinking. It doesn't take long to then become more aware of their ideas than yours. Don’t worry, your own thinking is right there, ready to come back to front and center the moment you allow it to. We're never giving away any part of ourselves by honoring the life within another.

  • Mick Scott

Imagine hiking in an unfamiliar forest, the sun is going down, and you come to a fork in the trail. You could feel such urgency that you just pick a path, whichever comes to mind first, and take it. Or perhaps you take a moment to pull out your compass.

The compass is likely more reliable than our impulses.

How a compass provides guidance is by tapping into a global energy source, Earth’s magnetic field. The usefulness of the compass is that it points us where we want to head, but its power comes from an ever-present force affecting the compass from the inside-out.

We have an innate capacity for insight and well-being. Like the compass needle we’re tapped into something. It’s got many names: Mind, God, Source, Atman, soul, Buddha-nature, life force, energy, inner wisdom, inner genius, inner GPS, and more. Regardless of what it’s called, like Earth’s magnetic field gently affecting the little needle of a compass, this inner guidance system is always present within us, gently whispering and pointing.

To hear this inner wisdom, we’ve got to be willing to listen for it.

Here are three ways we can settle our urgency enough to begin to see what our inner compass is pointing toward:

1. Conversation.

Most of us have experienced an intentional and supportive conversation that gets us back in touch with who we are. These conversations have a freeing effect. That affect is the natural outcome to us seeing our experience (our thinking and our feelings) more clearly, more fully, and more authentically. The freedom comes from seeing the experience as it is as opposed to using it to define who we are.

Maybe it’s a coach, a therapist, another practitioner, or a friend. Maybe it's just conversation between our thinking self and our observing self via journaling or focused thinking. No matter the form, this communication isn't haphazard - it's intentional. It gets at the present experience: what I'm feeling, what I remember happening, what I'm thinking about the situation, and what I'm committed to or really wanting with this person or situation.

2. Getting still.

It can be literal stillness in sitting meditation or simply a stillness of mind as we concentrate on something like our body or breath, even while in motion. Exercise, taking a shower, or doing the dishes is another way of getting still. Regardless, getting still is a way to settle into who we are as an aware being - settling down beneath the urgency of our emotions and thinking.

3. Take a different dance step.

This means simply doing something different; it’s a way to literally shift our perspective. So much of our thinking and acting is out of habit. In a particular type of conversation or with specific people, based on our past experience, we could plot out exactly how the exchange will go. It’s sort of like we are in a habitual dance in the circumstances of our lives (shout out to CCC for this distinction).

If you feel like you're dancing the same dance you've danced before, change your dance moves by simply doing something different. It momentarily breaks the habit and we’re left reconnected to some other, more authentic, part of ourselves.

Ultimately, these three ways of tapping into our inner wisdom are really just three ways to get present to the fullness of this moment. When we're acting out of habit or we're present only to our thinking, we're not fully present. Inner wisdom is ever-present, but we've got to be willing to listen.

Thanks so much for reading. ❤️

p.s. Session 1 of the workshop for adults was this past Tuesday evening!! I’m so grateful for the participants jumping right in with me. I’m excited for session 2 happening tonight!