Listening In

As you all know, this weekend was the RIE Conference, and I was completely consumed Friday and Saturday…and you know what? I loved it!

I had forgotten the rush of organizing and running an event like that! I thrive on details and organization, and oh my, there was a lot of it. I also thrive on bringing this work and this knowledge to new people and to people who love to go deeper with the work, and that’s what that Conference was all about! And lastly, I love learning and going deeper, even with something I think I understand.

I wasn’t always like this. Between being a bit of a Type A personality and being a cog in the wheel of classic American schooling, I was your typical ‘good student,’ meaning all I wanted to do was to get it ‘right.’

I tell people that I was that kid that loved worksheets! Tell me what to do at the top of the page, and if I do it, I’ll get an A? Yes, please. Teach to the test? Thank you, yes.

I thank RIE for saving me from that…for teaching me, as our Keynote speaker, ​Dr. Claudia Gold​, told us…to resist certainty. Indeed, I took three pages of notes during Dr. Gold’s presentation on Saturday, and there were tears in my eyes as she gave language to what I try to do in each class. She calls it “listening in.”

Listening in is “listening with an intentional suspension of expectations and a willingness to be surprised.” It’s such a practice, and it’s really hard to do because I know parents come to class because they want to know what to do…they’re seeking certainty! And I get that: I want it to!! But when we can replace certainty with the “humbleness of not knowing,” when we “allow ourselves to feel awkward and uneasy…to make mistakes,” we are better able to “find our way into another person’s experience.” And from there, you will find answers.

You don’t know the answer…but you’ll find your way there.

Think about it…in most cases, wouldn’t you rather talk with someone who’s curious about you, rather than someone who knows it all? Many years ago, I went car shopping and the first salesman I met looked at me and saw “female.” And said, “Oh, I bet you’d like a RED car, wouldn’t you, honey? I have just the car for you.” I started to reply that I didn’t care what color it was, I wanted…but before I could keep talking, he got called away. Another salesman approached. I was annoyed enough to leave, but I really DID need a car. He asked me what I wanted (stick-shift, sunroof, low miles)…he walked me to…the same red car. And I bought it. Same car. But the guy who had curiosity got the commission.

I have studied and practiced RIE for over 20 years now, but I still learn new things about this Approach and about myself. I started this article with the idea that I would talk about the “beginners mind” that RIE encourages us to have, and I think that still fits into this theme. The beginner doesn’t assert; the beginner wonders, explores, has curiosity.

We can learn this if we watch children: they can give it to us. But here’s the thing, when we keep this mindset…we give it back to children… to keep.