Kåre Landfald attended the NO MIND festival 2012 and, on Friday, he did a workshop on The Healing Power of Empathic Listening.
Since 1997 Kåre Landfald has worked as a consultant, coach, conflict mediator, manager and teacher in personal growth and organisational change. He is the founder of Zen Coaching and offers training in Zen coaching, as well as seminars for businesses, government agencies and non-profit organisations.
He opens the workshop by asking what kind feelings comes up, in our body, when we hear the the word “work”and receives answers like “stress”, “laziness”, “contraction”, “responsibility” and finally someone says “happiness”.
“Should it not be fun, to work? Are workshops heavy, maybe we should call them playshops” , he says and invites us to take at look at the concept of “work”.
He tells us, that when we are upset, and angry, about people or our work, we end up like prisoners in our own mind. But that is not what life is about, it is about meditation. The important thing is not what we do, but who we are, and Zen is about being present in the moment. The Japanese Zen meditation tradition is about watching our thoughts while following our breath. But “ sitting is really not that important”, says Kåre and refers to a Zen master in France who once said about those who do sitting meditation 5-10 hours per day: “You waste your life by sitting to much.” And many of us smile a bit, maybe because we know that we also need some doing. Maybe, especially these days, we are heading into an incredibly swifting development, in the world around us, where the rapid changes can cause confusion or, sometimes, a real mess.
Kåre is influenced by NVC (Non Violent Communication). The NVC – centre is founded by Marshall B. Rosenberg, who says that we all are compassionate by nature, but we inherit feelings of aggression and violence from our family and our society.
What does the word “empathic” mean to you? Kåre asks. And he gets answers like “compassion, accepting, listening, presence, awareness, connection, emotional resonance…” This brings him in to the concept “sympathy”, and what we mean by being sympathetic. If you have sympathetic feeling towards an other person you actually step in to her/his mode he says. But empathy has to do with listening to another, or a group of people, without judging or trying to fix anything for him/her/them. In that moment you see the world with the other´s eyes and create a space of peace and unity. This space is necessary to harbour the emotions. Then you can be just love and stay present in the storm, without reacting to it.
He lets us know that there might be just five seconds between a conscious reaction and an automatic one. If we just take this little time we can be able to contain strong emotions without acting them out. Being a container of your feelings, you have a choice. “So if someone hits your button, take a deep conscious breath before anything else”, Kåre says. Otherwise there might be an escalating conflict that could lead us far away from what created it, in the first place. And everyone recognizes the problem and some of us laugh a bit about it, we have been there… “To come in resonance with ourselves, in challenging situations that triggers our aggression or dislike, is a lifelong training”, says Kåre which reminds of having patience with ourselves.
We continue by examining judgements, at what they really are – a feeling and a need. When you don´t get what you need you might be drawn into a condemnation and judging condition. So we have to clarify what the underlying need is when we enter into this uncomfortable place.
We have to feel the energy of a desire – what is it that you long for that will be more satisfying for you?” Kåre asks. If the need is connection to others, freedom and ease you can receive these states without any outer change. What is important is a non judgemental space where the listener/therapist has no ambition of “fixing” you. The idea is that you actually don´t need help. The fact that the Zen coach/empathic listener does not help you, and that helps – a beautiful paradox. The energy is in the way the listener repeat back and insures that she/he has heard what you just said.
Hearing this reminded me of another paradox: If we can accept ourself totally as we already are, we open up for change, because the love and compassion that we allow us to feel, gives us the courage to dig deeper and discover qualities inside, that we did not know about.
Desire should be connected to longing, otherwise our mind will be feverish and spin up. And the listener sees the longing that is behind the desire. Desire is external (specific), I want something from the world, outside myself. But the longing points to an internal quality. For example behind the desire for sex, there may be a number of different longings, such as energy, love, playfulness, connection, relaxation etc. if the partners engaged in sex have different longings without being aware of it, it might be tricky – a disconnection.
When someone goes into guilt and shame I look for the needs behind, and welcome the authentic sadness. Guilt and shame are transformed when we connect with the deepest needs that are met and unmet in the situation”,says Kåre.
We end up the workshop by some practice. He asks somebody to enter the stage and do some work with him, to clarify what empathic listening is all about. And, through the volunteering “clients”, many of us recognise our feelings and what we often are stuck into.