Knock, Knock…Are You There?

mindful listening

My 13 year old came home from school one day frustrated. Over the kitchen table he told me of his troubles but I was miles away. My mind raced between thoughts of my three children, husband and career.

I don’t remember exactly what I was contemplating as he spoke, but I remember distinctly when he said “knock, knock…mommy are you there?” His words flew through my distractions to pierce my heart. Nearly twenty years have passed since that day and still tears well in my eyes as I remember the call from my son to return to the present and truly listen.

The art of deep listening is, in large part, lost to us today. But this is how we connect with each other and support those we love. The Buddha thought this practice so important to attaining happiness that he included it as one of the five mindfulness trainings, a how-to for everyday mindfulness application.

Often the most challenging and rewarding, family are the perfect people to begin practicing mindful listening with. We have history with our family; judgments, triggers and patterns. To listen mindfully as they speak is a great gift.

We need to learn the art of listening and speaking. To help restore communication, we need deep, compassionate listening to help us understand others better. This means that our only intention while listening is to help the other person suffer less and express what she has in her heart. We become completely present to just receive what she needs to share, without judging or reacting. Even if the other person says things that are not true, that contain a lot of blame and bitterness, we do not correct her straightaway. We give her space to share her feelings, and later on, maybe a day or two later, we can slowly share information that will help her release her wrong perceptions about us or the situation.

We also need to apply the methods of loving speech, using only words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope in others. We take time to acknowledge the positive, beautiful things in others. We let them know how important they are to us, and we thank them for the way they con- tribute to our life. We also can very mindfully and patiently express our difficulties in our relationship with them without judgment or blame. We take responsibility for our own feelings and reactions but ask them to support us and help us by watering the good seeds in us, not the negative ones. And we can ask them how we can be of support to them when they go through difficulties. This way, we can attain peace and harmony in our interactions.

... Before starting a conversation with a loved one, take a moment to breathe in and out a few times.

Breathing in, I listen deeply.

Breathing out, I speak with love.  

As you form the habit of being able to listen deeply and speak in a positive, constructive manner with your loved ones, it will spread to other interactions you have with friends and colleagues.

Excerpted from Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, (Pg. 195 196).


Great thoughts. I am a therapist, so I frequently work on cultivating the art of listening and simply being present with another person. Your words make me reflect, however, on whether I'm giving the same gift to my daughter, my husband, and (perhaps hardest of all!) myself. Always room to grow, and perhaps simply slow enough to be present.

Dear Kristen: Thank you for your appreciation and sharing. We all need reminders to take good care of ourselves before we take care of others. Enjoy listening to your inner wisdom! ~ Lilian