“Bookstore shelves are filled with guides telling us how to get
our bodies in shape, but there is very little practical advice about exercising our souls. Loyalty to Your Soul tears down the false wall we’ve put up between our minds and our spirits, and shows
the way toward a more fulfilling life.”
the cofounder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post
you’re wondering how a simple listening skill might change lives, we’d like to share the following account. A
seven-woman contingent of University of Santa Monica graduates facilitated a workshop that was part of the United Nations’
Partnership for Peace Program. This event included approximately 50 Israeli and 50 Palestinian professional women.
Due to political tensions, the conference could not be held in either Israel or Palestine, and so these courageous women
made their way to neutral Jordan for three days to explore specific initiatives that aimed to improve the environment for
building peace by encouraging dialogue and promoting understanding.
The workshop consisted largely of three-person
processes during which one person was the Listener, one was the Sharer, and the third served as what we call a Neutral Observer.
The Sharer was invited to speak about something personally meaningful and relevant to the intention of the conference. The
Listener was not to comment on what the Sharer said, but rather to simply practice the skill the trio was seeking to learn,
which, in this case, was Heart-Centered Listening. The Neutral Observer’s task was to silently hold a safe and accepting
space for both Sharer and Listener, and then to provide constructive feedback to both of them regarding their effectiveness
in practicing the skill.
On the second day of the workshop, the women began to trickle in. I noticed as the two
most influential women in the workshop, one Palestinian and one Israeli, both whom happened to be psychiatrists, arrived.
I was asked to be their Neutral Observer. As the exercise began, I was a bit nervous about being with the Palestinian psychiatrist
in particular. She was young, militant, angry, and appeared to be quite outspoken. During the previous day, she had stood
to aggressively share her grievances. She came to express her position to the Israelis, and had not given an opening to move
into any form of resolution of the issues.
The women were instructed on the exercise, and despite the structure
of the process, immediately began debating. It was as if the two countries were airing their grievances and animosities rather
than two women simply talking together. I interrupted several times, suggesting that they work with the skill of Heart-Centered
Listening to see what might happen. I must have intervened four times, as their exchange was escalating. These were two highly
educated, intelligent, and experienced women who were talking with great passion. You can imagine the fire that was moving
Then the Israeli psychiatrist “got it.” She stopped reacting and began listening. It
was remarkable. As she held the space for the Palestinian psychiatrist, they both began to relax and became more centered
within themselves. I could sense their countries’ histories fall away as they began genuinely listening to each other,
woman to woman. The authenticity of their exchange was deeply moving to witness.
During post-process large-group
sharing, the Israeli psychiatrist shared with the group that she realized after all these years as a psychiatrist in private
practice, working in hospitals, and teaching at a university, that she had never truly listened. I felt this was an incredible
insight that demonstrated the power of a one-hour dialogue to begin transforming a lifelong pattern. She said she recognized
that there were far deeper issues for the Palestinian people than she had previously understood or realized. That she felt
safe enough to share it with the entire group was nothing short of miraculous.
Then the Palestinian psychiatrist
stood to share her experience with the group. This time, she was considerably softer. She stood without the defiance and anger
that had been her previous persona, and shared with tears in her eyes that this was the first time in her life that she had
ever felt heard. She said, “I truly had a profound experience. I was listening with acceptance to an Israeli and hearing
that her concerns are similar to mine. I was truly surprised.”
The two women experienced a deep connection
with each other and chose to continue their dialogue during lunch. Clearly, they had fulfilled the UN’s hope of participants
moving beyond a competition of lamentations rooted in ancient resentments and animosities into a dialogue where, at least
for these women, peace truly prevailed. This experience was most inspirational for me. I remember it as if it happened yesterday,
and I suspect I will remember it for the rest of my life. What an affirmation of the power of Heart-Centered Listening.
Considered two of the best master teachers in the world, H. Ronald
Hulnick, Ph.D., and Mary R. Hulnick, Ph.D., are providing an answer to the spiritual hunger that millions of individuals
feel with the release of their powerful new book, Loyalty to Your Soul.These world-renowned pioneers and innovators in the emerging field of Spiritual Psychology are
founding faculty and co-directors of the University of Santa Monica., the Worldwide Center for the Study & Practice of
Spiritual Psychology. Ronald and Mary’s work is highly experiential and seeks to assist students in discovering their
own answers to life’s essential questions.