On Conversation

Interestingly, the roots of the word “conversation” are “to live with.” Thinking of it that way can give us a new sense of what a real conversation would be like: to be really alive with someone. It would mean we are fully awake, listening deeply to what someone is saying and giving full attention to that person when we are talking and expressing ourselves. It helps us to recognize that we are conversing not just with words, but with our full body and energy, full attention.

Healthy therapy, whether as psycho-therapy, or body-therapy, involves such conversation. Attention is focused with intention and sincerity. But truly, all of our waking life can be seen as conversation, exchanging, giving and receiving with whoever and whatever we encounter. Whether it’s a person, an animal, a tree, or a river, we are alive with life; we are in conversation with all of life.

One understanding of the difference between prayer and meditation is that prayer is talking to the Divine, meditation is listening to Her (or Him, or however one thinks of that which is beyond the personal self). In any case, a true conversation would involve both. We express our question or intention and then listen and open for a response. We are alive with the Presence.

It’s unfortunate that so much of human communication involves only partial attention and a distracted mind. It’s no wonder that people feel unrecognized and disrespected in so many encounters. It’s also no wonder that people find so little solace in their world when they don’t open to hear the voices of nature and the still small voice within. Thankfully, the wisdom teachings of spiritual traditions, especially those of the indigenous peoples of the world, have gained a voice in the collective conversation humans are now having. They are slowing us down to have real conversations, learning  to really speak and hear each other and therefore to live with each other,. Only then can we avert our destructive collision course and build a just a peaceful world.