Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of our core conversation on “Great Connections Lead to Great Ideas.” Yesterday, Les McKeown gave us the introvert’s guide to making great connections, and today, Mark Silver is encouraging us to surrender to wherever the talking is coming from. Now you’ll see why I love Mark as much as I do – enjoy!
Surrender to Wherever the Talking is Coming From
I was sitting in Oprah’s green room. It was the early 1990’s, and my wife and I were bleary from a red-eye flight, and excited to be on Oprah.
As much respect as I have for Oprah these days, the show was disappointing. We were attacked by another guest, who was nice to us backstage, and vicious on stage. Oprah herself felt detached. To be fair, we had very little media training and didn’t handle ourselves well, either. And the nonprofit I was heading up at the time saw absolutely zero bump in anything from being on the show.
In contrast, I think of several less famous, but more impactful connections:
– Talking to Charlie after I presented at Andrea Lee’s first Wealthy Thought Leader in Vancouver, B.C. as he gave me his sincere “zap” of what I had to do.
– Being in the “hot seat” with my mastermind group, Eric Klein, Jen Louden, Michele Lisenbury Christensen, Michael Bungay-Stanier, and Molly Gordon while I sobbed through a huge stuck piece that has been one of my biggest breakthroughs of recent years.
– Sitting in the room with Seth Godin, at a workshop in his NYC office, as I realized how ‘normal’ Seth is, and how accessible greatness can be.
– The conversation with my wife Holly, years ago, when she came out of a healing session with one of our spiritual teachers, and ‘zapped’ me with the truth. I felt all of my cells re-align, and I let go of something that had been painful to both of us.
And there’s plenty more…
What these conversations all had in common, that was missing on our bizarre Oprah experience, was the connection.
What Is Connection?
My spiritual path is Sufism, which comes out of Islam. In Arabic, the word used for prayer is “salat” which translates as “connection.” When you pray, you make a connection with Source.
Prayer can be a formal ritual of direct connection to the Divine, but that is not the only place it happens. Spiritual practice teaches us that the goal of doing formal practice and prayer is so that you can access that connection in every day life.
In life-altering conversations you may notice the connection can taste like prayer does. It’s because the processes are very similar: we surrender to something larger, letting go of our attempts to control, and submit ourselves to the flow of what’s true.
This happens especially powerfully in the presence of another sincere human heart. If both people have a connection, there is a profound depth that becomes possible. The two of you become enlivened by an encompassing third Divine Presence, creating a single experience of Oneness, and wisdom, compassion, love and knowledge flow freely.
All of my truly great ideas and breakthroughs have happened within connection-prayers like these.
There’s no guaranteed way to make these kinds of profound moments happen, since any attempt to control it is the opposite of the experience of surrender that defines them.
However, you can make the environment of your heart more favorable.
* See your conversational partner as Divine.
Everything comes from the Divine, and the fact that this person in front of you is here is evidence of Divine caring and presence. Ask in your heart to witness Presence in this person.
* Listen beneath what is being said.
Although the topic may be extremely interesting, take a breath and ask in your heart to be aware of what message is being given to you. It may be the explicit subject of your conversation, and it may be something deeper. I remember listening to someone talk to me, and the real message I heard, when I asked, was, “Trust this person. He’ll be a friend to you.”
* Practice outside of conversations.
There’s a reason consistent spiritual practice is recommended universally across all paths, it builds your ability to connect. Whether you take on meditation, prayer, Remembrance (a universal Sufi practice I teach), or some other practice, taking the time on your own to strengthen your heart’s connection means that it will be much more accessible in conversation with others.
Go Ye In and Connect
Try it out. Instead of waiting to get onto Oprah, or whatever you imagine might be the “perfect” connection with the “perfect” person, see if you can practice accessing a deeper presence in your next three so-called ordinary conversations.
I wonder what great ideas might emerge for you.
I’m so interested: what’s your experience of accessing presence in ordinary conversations?
More about Mark: Mark Silver heads up the team at Heart of Business. Since 1999 he, and now his team of practitioners, has helped thousands of entrepreneurs build effective, successful, profitable businesses through knowing that every act of business can be an act of love. He’s a designated Master Teacher in his Sufi spiritual lineage, and is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree. You can find out more about the Heart of Business approach, and the tiny seeds of change here.
Cathy Presland says
Well said Mark. I think deep listening is so hard to do. I’m in a couple of coaching groups – either leading or participating and I always notice that when I listen back I hear so much more of what was said and the feelings underneath what was said. It makes me realise the richness that I am missing the first time around in the conversation – and then I try to really give that person much more of my focus the next time we speak. It’s been an interesting journey!
Mark Silver says
Cathy- so interesting! Deep listening can be hard, simply because it requires us to let go of what normally takes our attention. the surface is so glittery and attractive, even if it’s not so nourishing…
Archan Mehta says
I would like you to know that your contribution here really resonated with me. I also would like to thank Charlie for sponsoring your work on his awesome blog.
As a late-bloomer, I discovered meditation by chance. Until then, I always felt like a fish out of water. I was not able to enjoy my existential alone-ness. In order to cope, I had to seek out the company of other people. Yes, even those I did not connect with.
Later, I started to practice meditation. Over time, meditation has enabled me to find the center of my being. In turn, that has enabled me to enjoy being alone. Now, I actually enjoy being left alone: I have found great joy in working on independent projects. There is a feeling of peace that never leaves you. There is unity consciousness too.
On the other hand, the habit of meditation allows you to grow as a human being. You no longer feel like a robot or machine, so you can have organic, natural and spontaneous conversations with like-minded people. Such people do not have to be rich and famous.
They can be ordinary people you meet at the check-out line in a supermarket.
The daily practice of meditation gives you the ability to access the stilness lying dormant within you. When you are still, you are able to listen with empathy; you allow individuals to finish what they are saying; you do not interrupt the flow of conversation. Rather, you feel one with it. And when meaningful and purposeful conversations occur, well, that turns into a dialogue rather than a monologue. Time stands still and you have found your magic.
Throughout history, people have always known the power of great conversations. Albert Einstein, for example, was famous for having a great connection with Niels Bohr, Ernest Rutherford, Rabindranath Tagore, Richard Feynman and a few, select others. Finally, dialogue means that you create a win-win partnership: everybody wins that game.
Mark Silver says
Archan- Sounds like a beautiful journey for you. And thank you for your kind words.
Megan Elizabeth Morris says
Mark, I had never thought of connection conversations quite this way before, and after reading it, it’s so natural. My significant experience with this is in two parts: connecting in incredible, on-that-wavelength conversation with a kindred spirit, and singing — recording or for an audience, it accesses the same effect.
In all those cases it’s communicating without words (whether there are words involved or not) and it’s an intensely spiritual feeling. Touching something behind the obvious. Finding someone who understands. Telling someone they’re not alone. Two people, or a crowd of people, experiencing a feeling together that can’t be intellectually described. The music or the conversation tastes like prayer does (as you said beautifully) because in one case I anticipate that someone will hear it and feel something — and in the other case, I know that someone is there and feeling something, right now.
Mark Silver says
Exactly, Megan! Beautiful way to capture it.