We learn to talk when we are babies, expressing ourselves in sounds and eventually words that make sense to those around us. Speech and verbal communication are encouraged and celebrated. What an achievement that first word is — a rite of passage in the human journey! Listening, however, is not given quite the same emphasis or encouragement. In school, we take classes in speech but not in listening. Within the context of polite behavior, we are told to listen and not interrupt, but learning to be silently present with focused attention in a variety of situations is not part of the curriculum. Neither is quiet time spent in meditation or contemplation.
As an only child, I played quietly by myself as much as with friends, but I didn’t begin to learn the true value of silence and of listening until I was well into adulthood. Although from a rural background, I acclimated easily to the novelty of living in cities and thought little of urban noise for years. At some point, however, I began to notice, and then couldn’t stop noticing, the lack of quiet everywhere. I sought out silence — in meditation classes, in parks, on vacations to natural settings away from the city. I took up bird watching as a way of immersing myself in nature, and it was then that I really began to learn how to listen.
In order to observe birds closely, you have to be willing to stand or walk in absolute silence, your senses of sight and hearing keenly attuned. When you are silent and motionless, the natural world gradually resumes its normal activity, which it had ceased at the appearance of a noisy human. What a miracle this was to me when I first experienced it. The more I listened, the more I heard: birdsong, bees buzzing, squirrels chattering, chipmunks scampering through the bushes, the wind rustling tree leaves and creaking branches.
Over the years, my listening deepened to the point where I felt I could actually hear flowers growing in my garden in the early morning stillness. Sounds fantastic, I know, but when you quiet yourself enough and truly listen, the world opens up its secrets to you.
Birds and flowers weren’t the only ones to teach me about listening. The elder parents in my life also taught me this sacred life lesson. Both my father and my partner’s mother experienced memory loss and related dementia in their later years. What you learn first in that situation is not to rush or finish the other person’s sentences, but to allow them time/space/silence to find the words they want to say. And if they don’t find the words, so what? Really the words themselves are unimportant. You learn to listen to the spaces between the words to hear what is really being communicated. I listened with my heart, with my soul. The last time I saw him, my father and I shared a lifetime of love just by looking in each other’s eyes. When he spoke, I heard his heart’s voice beneath the words. And during the afternoons when my partner and I sat quietly with her mother listening to 1940s tunes, we experienced together the beauty of the songs as well as the silence between the songs.
Perhaps what I am describing can’t really be taught in school, but only in life. We learn to listen as we learn that there is more to this world than the physical dimension. The longer we live, the wider our perception and awareness grows (if we are fortunate), and the closer we come to the essential stillness that is at the core of being and at the center of the cosmos. Out of silence, sound is born, life is born. When we listen deeply enough, we hear the sound of silence itself. And that is the place where our souls speak to one another, without words.
Peggy Kornegger, Writer, Poet, Vision Weaver, and Author of Lose Your Mind, Open Your Heart
Peggy Kornegger is a Boston-based writer and the author of two books: Lose Your Mind, Open Your Heart (2014) and Living with Spirit (2009). She has written about personal and global transformation for more than thirty years, bearing witness to the profound changes occurring at this key time in human and Earth evolution. Her first published work appeared in feminist and political publications in the 1970s and 1980s. Her articles were reprinted in the United States, England, and Italy and included in several anthologies. At the new millennium, Peggy’s writing expanded to an exploration of the spiritual, connected to social consciousness, and her work has appeared in the magazines Spirit of Change and Awareness. Her blog is read internationally and posts biweekly at her website.
This article has been reprinted here without modifications.
I have found a fantastic site that is doing an incredible job in bringing spirit into the open and making information freely available for all. The mission of this organisation is to: Advance Knowledge of Life After Death, Research & Development of Communication with Spirit, Preserve History, Provide Inspiration, Promote Teamwork, and Build a Network. The organisation is IDigitalMedium and can be found on this link: https://idigitalmedium.com/
As a grieving mother, I have spent thousands of dollars attempting to get “messages” from my daughter, and there was more than one person happy to relieve me of my money especially those early dark days of mad grief. At IDigitalMedium there is just so much information for free I just had to share, and I wished I had known about earlier. One page that I am like a kid in the lolly shop is the books page. Amazing people have put up books that are helpful, many have led to books that are free, so many aspects of spirit life I still have not got to the bottom of the first list. Here is a link to that page: https://idigitalmedium.com/books/
However the next close second oh okay, sometimes I go here first is the page of websites. On this page is a list of websites all with some link to the spirit in some way. Some are historical, some are about research happening now, some help us to help ourselves to begin our communication with our children, research from yesterday. Honestly a plethora of information I cannot begin to tell you how much there is. The link to that page is here: https://idigitalmedium.com/websites/
IDigitalMedium has a project happening at the moment that I will tell you about. They are coordinating a global thank you effort for Mr Bacci. I first heard of and watched Mr Bacci when I began looking at how to communicate with spirit. Mr Bacci is now an elderly man and no longer is working due to ill health, but for decades and decades from a humble, simple room filled with grieving people he would tweak his old valve radio and bring through the voices of spirit. In all that time he did not charge. He has been studied, watched by researchers and cynics, and no one can claim any issue with what he does. He is truly a pioneer. How many times do you mean to say thanks to someone but put it off and say oh I will do it next time I see her, or want to say something but that time never comes. This is an opportunity to thank a man who has been selfless in his service to grieving people, and I was proud and privileged to be able to participate because he showed to me that it can be done. Details of Mr Bacci and his work and some films can be found here: https://idigitalmedium.com/
I recently came across this excellent article written by Heather Plett, and she has kindly given me permission to reprint here as she has written it. I think it speaks to many of us who have had to walk the path of grief and to many of us who support others in their journey.
“When my mom was dying, my siblings and I gathered to be with her in her final days. None of us knew anything about supporting someone in her transition out of this life into the next, but we were pretty sure we wanted to keep her at home, so we did.
While we supported mom, we were, in turn, supported by a gifted palliative care nurse, Ann, who came every few days to care for mom and to talk to us about what we could expect in the coming days. She taught us how to inject Mom with morphine when she became restless, she offered to do the difficult tasks (like giving Mom a bath), and she gave us only as much information as we needed about what to do with Mom’s body after her spirit had passed.
“Take your time,” she said. “You don’t need to call the funeral home until you’re ready. Gather the people who will want to say their final farewells. Sit with your mom as long as you need to. When you’re ready, call and they will come to pick her up.”
Ann gave us an incredible gift in those final days. Though it was an excruciating week, we knew that we were being held by someone who was only a phone call away.
In the two years since then, I’ve often thought about Ann and the important role she played in our lives. She was much more than what can fit in the title of “palliative care nurse”. She was facilitator, coach, and guide. By offering gentle, nonjudgmental support and guidance, she helped us walk one of the most difficult journeys of our lives.
The work that Ann did can be defined by a term that’s become common in some of the circles in which I work. She was holding space for us.
What does it mean to hold space for someone else? It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.
Sometimes we find ourselves holding space for people while they hold space for others. In our situation, for example, Ann was holding space for us while we held space for Mom. Though I know nothing about her support system, I suspect that there are others holding space for Ann as she does this challenging and meaningful work. It’s virtually impossible to be a strong space holder unless we have others who will hold space for us. Even the strongest leaders, coaches, nurses, etc., need to know that there are some people with whom they can be vulnerable and weak without fear of being judged.
In my own roles as teacher, facilitator, coach, mother, wife, and friend, etc., I do my best to hold space for other people in the same way that Ann modeled it for me and my siblings. It’s not always easy, because I have a very human tendency to want to fix people, give them advice, or judge them for not being further along the path than they are, but I keep trying because I know that it’s important. At the same time, there are people in my life that I trust to hold space for me.
To truly support people in their own growth, transformation, grief, etc., we can’t do it by taking their power away (ie. trying to fix their problems), shaming them (ie. implying that they should know more than they do), or overwhelming them (ie. giving them more information than they’re ready for). We have to be prepared to step to the side so that they can make their own choices, offer them unconditional love and support, give gentle guidance when it’s needed, and make them feel safe even when they make mistakes.
Holding space is not something that’s exclusive to facilitators, coaches, or palliative care nurses. It is something that ALL of us can do for each other – for our partners, children, friends, neighbours, and even strangers who strike up conversations as we’re riding the bus to work.
Here are the lessons I’ve learned from Ann and others who have held space for me.
Holding space is not something that we can master overnight, or that can be adequately addressed in a list of tips like the ones I’ve just given. It’s a complex practice that evolves as we practice it, and it is unique to each person and each situation.
It is my intention to be a life-long learning in what it means to hold space for other people, so if you have experience that’s different than mine and want to add anything to this post, please add that in the comments or send me a message.”
If you would like to know more about Heather, you may find her at https://heatherplett.com/about-2/