Learning to Listen

by David James Ray

The clanking of silverware felt like hammers pounding on my head, adding to the ringing in my ears. I stared down at the menu through my hangover fog, unable to tell my parents why it had been so hard for me to get up for a 1 p.m. lunch. They were in town to celebrate my thirtieth birthday, and I didn't get to see them often. I wanted to be present with them, but the L.A. party scene was doing a number on me. I wished I were feeling healthy and aware, instead of sitting there berating myself for causing the pain in my head and the blurriness of my mind. There was a sense of shame for continuing with my hamster wheel of behavior, which was now interfering with my ability to bond with my family.

I had known for a while that I was outgrowing the party scene, all the drugs and drinking. I was tired of waking up every Sunday and feeling terrible. But that uncomfortable lunch with my parents was the turning point that made me decide thirty was the perfect age to slow this train down. 

That was the year I said yes to everything, looking for a new way to connect with my life. That was when I discovered OM.

With women, I used to get by on being fairly good-looking, but OM taught me how to connect to a woman and really listen to her. It felt really empowering for us to connect through OM. Being in a space that was not essentially sexual, I had permission to focus on my partner and listen to her body instead of worrying how mine was performing. While I was stroking, I would notice her involuntary movements, and I'd notice the effect I was having if I changed speeds or switched from a downstroke to an upstroke. It was so new to me. Prior to that, in any sexual encounters I had just been using heavy pressure, and now I discovered I could be more gentle than I ever thought I was supposed be. I liked feeling that subtlety in OM and how it translated to other aspects of my life. 

A few weeks after I started OMing, I had an OM experience where I became totally tuned in to the spot of highest sensation on my partner’s genitals. I could feel a current connecting us, through my finger, through my whole body. As I went on stroking, I could feel the spot moving, and my finger followed it around. It was exhilarating to have that level of connection and sensitivity, and to be able to offer by listening to what I felt and responding to it. 

Then my girlfriend got pregnant, after we'd been together for only three months. It sent me sideways. I had just opened a gym, my life was changing fast, and now I had to handle the prospect of raising a child. It was a really tough year for me. Luckily, OM had given me access to more of my feelings, and that was a game changer. Being able to connect to my feelings and emotions through the practice gave me the foundation I needed. I had the feeling like nothing could throw me off, or if it did, a knowing that I'll make it through. 

Once my daughter was born, life smoothed out. It turned out I was more prepared to raise a child than I thought. Now I find myself using a lot of subtle communication skills. Whenever I'm talking with someone, especially with my daughter, I try to check what I'm communicating at all times and all levels of abstraction. Am I coming from a place of love? Is what I'm about to say of the highest good for myself and the other person? A lot of that started with OM, where I learned there are different modes of communication that can be more important than factual knowledge. In my work as a health coach, it's helpful to be able to read someone's body and their nonverbal cues, so I can figure out how to support them.

My social relationships have changed too. When I was getting ready to close the gym, I had a talk with the landlord. This guy, Frank, was really crotchety and didn't have much to talk about besides sports or weightlifting. One day we were alone together in the break room, and I decided to find out about him. I started asking questions. He talked about his father, his mother, his kids, and his fear. He spilled it all out, and I kept asking, “How'd that feel? How'd that go? What was that like for you?” You could see him going inside himself to continuing revealing more. It was not that different from the OM where I followed around the spot of highest sensation. I kept sensing which spot wanted to be verbally stroked to open even further. I think I’m one of the privileged few who have gotten to see into the depths of Frank. I'll never forget that beautiful moment, or the presence I’ve cultivated through OM. 

I love being able to really listen to people and let them speak. It generates positive relationships with just about everyone. I get to touch a new depth with people and see them, in a way I didn't know was possible before the practice of OM.

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