“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they bloom like flowers.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh
When I was a child, I told my mother all manner of things—what I thought about the color green, the dream I had about the big volcano, my most outlandish ideas (including the plan to build a hot air balloon with my best friend to circumnavigate the globe together). Often, when something was important to me—even if ridiculous from an adult’s perspective—she would pause whatever she was doing, we’d sit on the kitchen stools, and she would listen to what I had to say. Her presence was full and felt, notable in what was absent: She didn’t interrupt, correct, lecture, or give advice. She allowed long silences while I gathered myself. Occasionally she took notes and gave them to me in case I wanted to think over things later. Sometimes she asked questions or reflected back something I said. But mostly, she listened.
As an adult, I recognized my mother’s quiet attention for what it was: a gift. It gave me a lasting capacity to trust others and to feel confident in my own voice, and it also nourished a thirst to hear others’ views—a curiosity about their stories. And if I had to name what it was she was doing, I would call it deep listening.
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