Category Archives: active listening

Days 241-243: MLwC and 64 Miles to Mindfulness

I headed out yesterday to an all day meditation retreat held by Seattle Insight Meditation at Bastyr College, a 24 mile drive from my house in West Seattle. I was really looking forward to this retreat as I’ve been a little, well, how to say? Unfocused lately.

Anyway, so I took off leaving myself plenty of time for traffic, should there be any on an early Saturday morning through downtown Seattle. What am I saying? There’s always traffic through downtown Seattle. But I hit something a little more than just your usual traffic–all lanes were virtually stopped, with no explanation of what was going on.

We inched along and finally, as we get just past Capitol Hill I learn that there’s construction and they’ve closed all but one lane from downtown to the University district. Holy cow. I’m getting increasingly irritated and concerned that I’ll not make it on time, I’ll walk into the serene environment of meditators laughably late, no doubt indicating some transcendent failure on my part.

Finally a light bulb comes on in my head: I’ll take the 520 bridge exit, get off on Montlake, zoom up arterials and grab the freeway somewhere north of this mess and all will be good, right? Wrong. Lots and lots of other people have the same idea and then another light goes on in my increasingly unfocused head: I’ll just stay on 520 over to the eastside and go to Bastyr from there! After all, Bastyr is on the eastside, kind of, isn’t it?


So narry another thought presents itself to dissuade me and off I go. By the time I reach land on the east side, I have realized I wouldn’t know how to get there…I’ve always had someone with me who actually knows the eastside and knows the back roads. I have virtually no chance of getting there without getting at least a little lost.

By this time I realize that it’s so easy to go sailing down the freeway, so easy! So easy and fast that I’ve simply been in “get-away-from-traffic” mode rather than just relaxing and knowing I’ll get there when I get there. It’s a meditation retreat, for goodness sakes!

So, yes, I turned the car west and retrace my path back to the original plan, get back on the freeway–I’ve managed to get farther north at least to avoid the bottleneck–and resume my trip. With an added 9 or 10 miles to the odometer. I make it to the retreat 15 minutes late and settle in for an excellent day.

During the day, the meditation teacher, Rodney Smith tells a story of one of his students who has a packed schedule every day: two kids, a job, and appointments, activities and errands all day long. She was sitting in snarled traffic one day, the kids were fighting in the back seat, it was hot, she had lost her cool a few miles back, and suddenly she thought, “What if you just surrendered. Imagine you will never leave this car, not ever. It will always be like this.”

As he told this story, I thought: yipes! That makes me want to run screaming away from here! Yet on my way home, the 24 mile trip home, I got caught in traffic in the downtown corridor and the story popped up in my head. I thought, well, hell, why not give it a try. So I really focused and thought: “you will never be out of traffic. It will always be like this.” I felt a sinking feeling but then guess what happened? My head leaned back against the headrest and I involuntarily took a deep breath. I relaxed.


Daily stats:
Car: 64 miles
Bike: 8.5 miles
Ped: 2
Bus: 0

Oh yeah! It’s Blog Action Day!

La Marguerite reminded me this afternoon that it’s Blog Action Day!

And for Blog Action Day, beyond my post this morning, I want to cede my time to a most excellent and profound post that reminds us to reach beyond our own circle of like minded friends now and again, when the opportunity arises.  Thanks to GroovyGreen for pointing me in this direction, and thanks to Celsias for an unbelievable story.  It’s long, well told, and worth it.

Raw Video: San Diego Mayor Sanders Supports Gay Marriage

I was reading this morning about how the Buddha, when he first left his ascetic life and began living in the world again, reached out to the “untouchables.” As he said, you may think whatever you want but a lie will never be the truth and the truth is we are all connected, we are all the same. Then b2 sent me this vid…hope you find some truth in it. Jerry Sanders is no Buddha but you gotta give him credit for listening to his heart and speaking the truth. I hope he doesn’t get too beat up for it.

Day 43 & 44: My Life w Car


Holy shit, I was sitting in a car with a friend in San Salvador traffic yesterday–she was smoking, holding the cigarette out the window to not bother me–and suddenly we’re behind a bus that accelerates and good god, you should have seen the black cloud of smoke that encircled us. It was thick, like it was palpable with particulates, and with our windows open, the cloud filled the car and stayed there.

I literally felt trashed, like breathing would hurt me but I’m an oxygen dependent organism, so what am I going to do.

The swallows around here are preparing to travel up North–they’re swirling and chattering in large obvious groups. I imagine what it’s like flying here, as a small bird, and yeah, I’d be pretty excited about leaving too. Even though I like San Salvador, and love my pals here, I won’t miss the thick billowing clouds of pollution that happen all over the city. Also, I won’t miss the poverty and over-crowding, the wild population growth.

So…what am I doing down here?
I’m training the team here on Active Listening and the Art of Questioning. Specifically, how managers and direct reports go “dead” during evaluations because the manager practices the “opn-the-head-and-pour-the-info-in.” This approach works with kids up to about 8th grade, optimistically; after that, if the individual isn’t engaged on a problem solving, thoughtful level, they aren’t engaged at all. They’re merely nodding and saying, at specific points, what they believe they should be saying.

There’s a lot of that going on here with supervisors and managers. I observed a review yesterday where the agent stopped looking at the supervisor 2 minutes into the conversation, slumped in his seat and stared at the floor. The supervisor pushed on, never veering from her review form, never checking in with the agent. She even lowered her head to try and catch his eye…yet, she never veered from her performance review form. the conversation lasted 12 minutes, and 10 minutes of that time the conversation was functionally dead.

The good news, when I asked her what she thought was going on with this kid, she said she suspected he was ashamed because the review wasn’t good but his usual work is above reproach. I asked why she pushed on, knowing there was a problem–she had no answer. So, my work is trying to make this exchange alive, relational, meaningful.

Active listening means you take in the whole picture–the posture, the eyes, the words, and perhaps most important, your own feelings about how things are going. Our ability to put our own perception in the present moment aside in favor of the obligation of the task at hand is amazing to me…and a little frightening.

Daily stats:
Car: probably about 12 miles of gagging, pollution soaked travel through town
bike, bus, flexcar: zip
Walking: probably 1.5 miles