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I’ve Been Thinking … The Gift of Listening

 We each have within us a beautiful capacity for understanding one another. Especially in difficulties, we must learn to listen in a new caring way.

Some years ago, one of the greatest primate biologists, George Schaller, came back from studying gorillas in Africa. Dr. Schaller was the mentor of Dian Fossey, who was portrayed by Sigourney Weaver in the movie Gorillas in the Mist. When Schaller returned from his extensive field studies in Africa, he made a presentation at an important biological conference and talked about the familial patterns of the great apes. He spoke of the relationships between the young gorillas and their uncles and aunts, what the sibling relationships are, and the role of the silverback male – all with rich detail and understanding that had never been known before. One of the professors at the conference asked, “Dr. Schaller, we biologists have been studying these creatures for several centuries and we did not know any of this. How did you get such detailed information?” And Professor Schaller answered, “It’s simple. I didn’t carry a gun.”

Previous generations of biologists had gone into the mountains carrying large elephant guns because they were frightened of the huge and powerful gorillas. The gorillas sensed that these armed interlopers were scared and probably dangerous. But Schaller, wanting a genuine relationship to the gorillas, entered their jungle without any guns. Because he was unarmed, he knew he had to move slowly and deliberately, and the gorillas could sense the care and respect and awareness in his relationship to them. And, after a time, seeing he posed no threat to them, they allowed him to sit in their midst and watch all of the activities of their family and tribe. And learn about them in whole new ways.

In the same way, you can bring this respectful attention and awareness to the most difficult situations in which you find yourself, and to your relationships with others.

For more from Jack, go to

Jack Kornfield trained as a Buddhist monk in the monasteries of Thailand, India, and Burma, and he is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. He is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California and a best-selling author. Jack was one of the leaders at the first-ever White House Buddhist Leadership Conference in 2015.




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