Veteran’s Heart Georgia invites service members, veterans, their family members, helping professionals and caring citizens to come together to listen, understand, and collectively address the effects and wounds of war that touch all of us. As we listen to our veterans and family members we become part of a process focused on opening the door for a full return and healing from the effects of war. We share our veterans’ and their families’ burden by willingly and intentionally holding difficult truths and emotions. Civilians develop a unique understanding of how all of us are touched by military service and war.
We call our meetings Just Listening. Not a support group…not a therapy group, but a circle, led by a mental health professional, that is created by those present to hold the truth of military service and war.
Webster’s dictionary defines “Just” as simply, exactly, totally, truly, precisely. Another definition of ‘Just” is making things right, well deserved, honorable, conscientious, right and fair. “Listening” is defined as hearing with intention, hearing attentively.
Listening attentively to each other is a powerful way of connecting with another human being. When we set our intention to be present, to listen in order to learn and understand, we offer a gift that helps break through isolation and builds support. We create community.
For this process we do not need knowledge or answers. We don’t need to know how to fix it!! Instead, we learn that advice-giving is not necessary. Simply being heard is both necessary and sufficient.
We need only to learn to stay open, receptive and caring. We listen without interrupting the speaker, resisting our impulse to give advice, to try to “make it better”. Allowing the other to be fully heard is a powerful gift to the speaker, and a skill that can be learned and practiced with generosity.
Deep listening seeks to see through the masks of fear, indifference, ignorance, and hostility into the sacredness of each person and their wounds.
The capacity to listen with compassion, empathy, and presence is nurtured in the space created in the circle of those present. This practice of speaking the truth and listening deeply to each other waters the seeds of lovingkindness and compassion within us and increases our awareness of ourselves and others.
This kind of bare attention and listening is simple but not easy. It can be difficult. Once we set our intention to speak and listen to each other there are challenges along the path. We hear of suffering, injustice, unspeakable acts, wells of grief– and we get uncomfortable. Our discomfort directs us to action. We want to fix it, give advice, minimize or discount what we have heard, judge it or dismiss it. If we are uncomfortable enough we will want to avoid, shut our emotions down, and leave the situation. Others’ stories remind us of our own story…feelings or memories arise …we want to interrupt to tell our story…
In our Just Listening circles we practice mindful presence and compassionate listening. We enhance our capacity for empathy. We increase our awareness of our own reactions, judgments and fears, and learn to calm ourselves. We use our breath as an anchor, a place to return our attention when we need to soothe ourselves, and get refocused in the present. We learn to speak from our present experience. As we continue in community we find we can stay stable, calm and present.
Our circle becomes a holding space where joy and connection can grow out of suffering. We can all stay safe but not untouched. Through these practices our ability to speak our truth and listen deeply grows. And this points the way towards healing and understanding for all of us.
We meet to for “Just Listening” on the 2nd Sunday of each month. When you sign up here on the website for our newsletter you will be sent reminders prior to the meetings. Be sure to register to let us know you are coming so that we will know to have a chair for you. And contact us if you have questions or concerns.