What is Listening? Sharing Our Russian Way

28 March 2016

The Parliament of the World Religions invited me to participate in a webinar on the topic "Listening." See below what I have written from my heart - sharing our Russian way. Sharing this makes me happy, not because it is about Russia, but because it is about the soul and heart, where Faith is born.

I am glad to have participated in this really interesting webinar. Although I have read materials about the Parliament’s Listening Program before in October 2015, I only now get the real idea what it is like; what the purpose is. From the talk of Kay and the others, I realized that the main idea is to let a person in need to speak out on whatever is pressing his\her soul. We all are one, but still, the mentality is different in some ways, in different nations, and it is normal.

From my childhood, I remember when my mother's friends – women - would come to us just to be together to speak. (Many were widows who lost their husbands in the second World War and had to bring up children under rather difficult conditions. BUT people were united, and it helped. (I was born a few years after the war.)

My mother would always suggest tea (strong tea+milk) and whatever she could suggest for tea. (Today I feel surprised looking back: my mother, as well as other women, would often keep something sweet and special for "guests," and she would ask us children not to touch it. We children didn't touch, of course, because Mum would give us a taste as well. Not because we were afraid of punishment (in my family we never were punished, but there could be a serious talk if needed), but because we respected "guests."

Today it can seem strange how a mother and others would keep something for guests while it was not a time of abundance - but it was so.

So, one of the women would start telling her sad story - mostly current problems involving children, lack of money, health, etc. Sometimes she would cry, and my mother, with someone else who was present, would listen to her without interrupting - just suggesting to her to drink tea, to try a pie, etc. As for the women present, they would mostly nod their heads with sympathy and sigh, sometimes with tears too. After that woman would stop talking - there were common discussions and practical advice.

Normally, they ended up finding some solution for the problem, or at any rate gave advice, and the suffering woman felt much better; a kind of relaxation. Then they went on tea drinking, talking, and of course, singing songs. Songs together were extremely typical for all and important.

After such a tea-talk, they would feel energized and refreshed. I was the youngest in the family and Mama took me with her, so I could watch it many times in different families. People were very much united and ready to help in any way; ready to express compassion and understanding. If they felt lonely - such therapy helped a lot. Those days, people didn't need psychologists. They didn't go to churches, but they were very spiritual, for spirituality resides not only in the churches. At present time all over the world people are so lonely. We all have lost much...

Your program touched some subtle strings of my soul, and I decided to share my story on the Role of Listening.

Galina Ermolina