Martin Scase reveals how it was only when he reached a ‘crisis phase’ in his Community Project, that he had a deep personal realisation. Martin was on our Community Listener Programme. Here he shares how he realised that a community project didn’t need to be grand. It could just be in listening to another human being. Martin shares here in his own words…
On reflecting on my Project I see that much of my initial motivation sprang from an idea about what the project would be and with whom I would work.
As we will see, as time passed I came to question this idea and from whence it sprang. Moreover its evolution and transformation was toward my whole understanding of what Wellbeing Listening was.
Obviously the invitation to participate in the Community Wellbeing Listener (CWL) project emerged from my attendance on the Wellbeing Listener Training. I was deeply moved, enthused and inspired by the training and the degree to which the approach resonated with my own ideas. At its conclusion the offer to extend it and run a project putting into real world practice its principles was very exciting.
I had already gleaned significant insights into the power of the approach with a number of close friends: I could sense that finding the still and quiet presence within was something that was indeed readily and constantly available and to allow this to manifest in meeting with someone could be transformative in my relationships.
However in my initial contemplation of my Project I can now see two unconscious assumptions that I made. The first was that I fully understood what Wellbeing Listening (WL) was and what its potential for transformation could be. This arose out of a sense that the approach was in essence ‘nothing new to me’ and that it wouldn’t change me. The second arose out of the first and that was that all I had to do was to find a suitable group to which I could offer My Service. In retrospect it feels like I was looking for a big public gesture to which I would receive something back; a certain lack of humility one could say!
There were two possible groups I could see – the first a group of online work colleagues I had been getting to know while we were consulted on the transformation of Mental Health Services in Somerset. The second possibility was an, as yet undefined, group from a local Community Centre where I had received free counselling support during some difficult periods in my life. My motivation here, I felt, was to offer something back.
At the time I felt a niggling concern about what on earth I was really going to be able to offer either of these groups – how indeed was a ‘Listening session’ to be achieved ‘for a group’? I barely had any experience of WL at all – and this had always been in a one-to-one setting. Something profound was already speaking to me about the intimacy and focus of that format; how could that ‘special state’ be achieved in a group?
However these concerns were to prove to be insignificant, as the response to my offer was not encouraging. I see now that this was probably because I was not at all clear about what my offer was in the first place and what motivations lay behind it.
So, I went into the Crisis Phase of my project – I panicked; was I wasting my time? The months were rolling by – some of the other participants on the CWL programme seemed to have clear plans and were beginning to put them into action. It was then, most pertinently, that Liz sent out a somewhat enigmatic sound clip regarding the progress of our projects. In essence it said ‘If by now you have a clear idea of what your Project is and are beginning to put it into practice, then good! If, however, you still have no clear idea and are begining to panic, then…good!! That is clearly where you are meant to be!’
In one sense I felt a huge relief and further confirmation came from a subsequent monthly session where it transpired that many of my fellow participants were in the same position. Could it be though, I wondered, that my whole approach to my project was misguided? Or, more positively, that my whole experience of it thus far was just a part of its development, of its evolution? I saw suddenly that I had so far seen my project as something external to me – a thing that I was waiting to manifest in the world –but now I began to perceive that it was just as much about ME, a deepening of my relationship with myself, my motivations and what inner stillness and presence, meant for my life. I began to see with a new perspective: Community I began to see not as something existing out there, complete to which I was to address myself, but as something I could co-create, beginning with myself from the ‘inside out’.
I saw the idea of Wellbeing Listening not as something that I put on like a coat when I chose to go out and practice ‘Wellbeing Listening’ but as a State. I was growing to recognise my own Innate Wellbeing as an ever present inner reality, to which I could turn at any time and essentially from which I could live out of.
This then became the focus of my project – to attempt to begin Wellbeing Listening as a Life practice. Dicken Bettinger spoke in one of his interviews about Listening as an idea that transcends that of the hearing sense that we sometimes confine it to. It can be seen as the organ of awareness of the State of Being itself.
I resolved then, to seek Community with the group of friends and family with whom I was most intimately associated. Indeed every interaction – with person known, or unknown – I saw as opportunity, ripe with potential. What a liberation this idea was to me – to meet the world increasingly free of judgement, to be able to embrace realationships that I realised I had spent much of my life avoiding. This arose out of that growing confidence that the sense of inner peace and presence was always available, and that living out of it was always pertinent and appropriate to the situation that arose. How that manifested, however, could never be predicted, nor should it be.
In conclusion, I will reflect a little on my experience and what manifested in reference to the old ways of being – what one could call ‘Outside-In’ compared to the New Way or ‘Inside-Out’.
I had always been praised as ‘a good listener’. However, in my personal relationships I had often felt resistance, annoyance and limitation – I saw my time taken up with other people’s problems; how one-sided I felt the realtionships to be – who will listen to me, when my problems are so insignificant?
What became clear to me when I began to step into presence with individuals (some very long term friends) with whom I felt this resistance, was that it had been, in fact, a huge barrier to the relationship. My own personal thoughts and feelings were getting in the way of The Flow, I was not really Listening at all, so how could they be heard or truly express themselves?
Moreover, I realised that it was not just resistance and annoyance that proved to be barriers but any attempt to offer solutions, solace and sympathy, indeed any attempt ‘to be what I felt I should be’ manifesting from my own personal thinking and judgement.
One day I visited a good friend with the intention of practicing some Wellbeing Listening. When I arrived they were in a highly stressed state – huge anxiety, agitation and anger about the pressures of work, and the initial thought/feeling arose in me ‘well I’m not going to get very far with this today’. Their agitation was triggering for me – I had in the past felt blamed for their issues, and anything I said only made matters worse. I’d felt the desire to back away, as indeed I did for many years when I felt there was nothing I could do to help. Where was I in this relationship?
This time I allowed it. My friend needed to rant. But in the state of Presence, in the resolve to allow them to let off steam, I was bounded and safe; any sense that I was to blame evaporated. Gradually their agitation subsided –for there was nothing really that could be done. The moment passed and out of the presence to this reality of life, and the allowing of it without resistance – calm descended. It is said that one should ‘look for Resilience’ in listening We concluded the meeting deep in conversation and most remarkably I felt myself heard and appreciated in an unprecedented way. Our shared thoughts utterly transcended the suffering that my friend had felt, and new possibilities and potentials arose.
Again Dicken Bettinger contrasts Personal Thinking with the New Thinking that arises when one sinks into Presence. The example above, one of many I could share, shows that the state of Presence allows for a New World to manifest. In my experience during this Project I have most profoundly felt that – that this New World most clearly reveals itself in conversation, in communion between two individuals – the basis of any Community.