The Healing Art of Listening
The support that helps us best is mutual. It is not found in a relationship of unequals in which one person knows the answers and guides the other who doesn’t, or in which one person is powerful and the other is not. We are most nurtured and empowered in relationships of equality in which we see in others, and allow them to see in us, the outstanding beings we already are. In such relationships, we help facilitate each other’s ongoing emergence. One of the psychological and scientific hallmarks of the 21st Century is that we now know that what we bring to the table changes the conversation. We know facilitation of each other’s potential far outperforms even the best advice. We live our lives in community with each other. The better the quality of our attention to each other and to ourselves, the more we enhance our communities.
How Wise Peer Creates Health and Well-Being
Wise Attention* is a truly 21st Century breakthrough that rests on our understanding that we are all equal, worthy, capable, and lovable, and have a basic right to mental and emotional health and personal power. Wise Peer leaves the power where it belongs: with the speaker!
* WiseAttention can take place one-on-one between two Wise Peers—one in the speaking, the other in the listening role— or a Wise Peer and anyone else.
- The Wise Peer weekend workshop takes place over the course of a Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday during which you learn and practice skills and tools to facilitate and receive deep healing*, empowerment, and freedom. As a result, it is possible to form profoundly supportive relationships that last a lifetime.
- The Wise Peer workshop is a weekend of self-discovery and transformation. A journey shared with your fellow students, that can create a deep and lasting bond and inform subsequent peer partnerships.
* Wise Peer defines healing and being healed as being in the experience of health and wholeness.
How I Came to Teach this Program
In 2002, I was still heartbroken from a relationship that had ended several years prior. I had good psychological and spiritual tools but nothing seemed to help me move on. I received the great blessing of meeting a new friend who naturally listened the way this program teaches: highly attentively, lovingly, without judgment or advice, only occasionally asking questions. These empathetic questions led me to see things I could not before (sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees) that helped me get unstuck.
She let me shout out as often as I needed the anger I had kept to myself because everyone I knew was tired of hearing about it. She let me sob as often, as loudly and for as long as I needed to express all my grief. To my surprise, within three months I regained my strength and sense of self. Almost miraculously the pain had faded and I could reclaim my life. It was so extraordinary that for a long time I held the slight fear that this wasn’t real and my anguish would return. It never did.
When I moved to Seattle a short while later, I was introduced to a listening technique that reminded me of my friend’s wonderful ability to listen. I learned things that let me realize what about her listening had transformed me. I discovered that most people will need additional tools for stamina, focus and insight into the speaker (not everyone is superwoman like my friend) and techniques that lend resilience to their compassion and caring. After briefly teaching the listening technique I’d been introduced to I felt called to formalize the experience with my friend into a class that would make the kind of healing and empowerment I had received available to others. Eventually, Wise Peer was born.
I love this program and its transformational power and how it continuously evolves and I recommend it with all my heart. Not only because it restores the experience of wholeness but because Wise Attention is so transformative that it has the power to bring people together, to heal rifts between parents and children, between spouses, siblings, workers and employers, between the different sides within a person. It aids the interactions between service providers and clients, healthcare professionals and patients. It, like many other modalities, transforms the world wherever there is discord or communication broken by allowing two sides to hear each other so that they can come together. *
How a Session Works
In each session the Wise Peer partners follow a protocol that over several decades has been proven to be effective and is deeply indebted to the “client-centered” work of Carl R. Rogers, one of the founders of humanistic psychology.
Each session begins in the same prescribed way to foster the session’s effectiveness.
During a customary peer-to-peer session, you and a fellow Wise Peer partner take turns spending anywhere from 20-40 minutes (there is no switching back and forth during a turn, each gets one turn of equal time) exploring anything of your choice that has been agreed upon by you both at the beginning of the session.
During the exploration, one of you is always the listener and the other the speaker. As the listener, you facilitate the speaker’s experience. As the speaker, you are ensconced in a space that is safe enough to be vulnerable, encouraging enough to facilitate discovery, and subtle enough to reveal the unexpected.
Resting on the Three Pillars of Wise Peer, congruousness, combined with unconditional positive regard that creates the conditions in which the speaker’s own inner wisdom wells up, (see Carl R. Rogers On Becoming a Person) the stage is set for the speaker to discover, express and define things they will find helpful, healing, and even transforming.
Because sessions typically take Wise Peer partners deeply into their chosen material, each session is closed with a completion process that restores both partners to a sense of balance, groundedness and presence in the here and now.
In the speaker’s role, you have the extraordinary opportunity to say and express* whatever is in your heart and mind. You will be heard by a Wise Peer listener who, like you, has been trained to facilitate with exquisite care and wise attention. They are trained to continue to see your innate wisdom and wholeness no matter what you share, making sharing inherently safe and dignified.
* There is so much we don’t say because we need to manage how others perceive us. Not having to do so when in a peer session is one of the most healing and transforming experiences you can have.
In the listener’s role, it is your privilege to facilitate with Wise Attention* and bringing to bear the appropriate facilitation tool(s) and technique(s) you have learned and practiced during the 12-week training.
*You will be taught specific tools and practices that allow you to “hold space” for the speaker with ease and without being drained or unduly drawn into the subject matter.
Everything you do and are is designed to maintain an “energetic container”* for the Wise Peer speaker in which they can feel safe and free to be vulnerable enough to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of being judged, shamed, shut down, met with indifference, or told how to “fix it.”
* The energetic container is built via a behavioral protocol that creates a physically and emotionally safe environment.
Everything you do is in service of facilitating your Wise Peer partner’s inner wisdom and rememberance who they truly are in the deepest sense of their understanding.
Sacred Space and Completion Period
These 40 minutes are bracketed between the creation of sacred space at the beginning of your session and the completion period in which the WisePeer partners use specific tools to assess the session and design a response to what has been experienced in session. In that segment, and if so desired, the WisePeer listener will use tools (which both have learned) to help the WisePeer speaker to ease out of the emotional state they entered during session so they can move comfortably into the rest of their day or evening.
Being witnessed in this way is uniquely healing and transforming. And witnessing like this is a deeply gratifying service to another human being, liberating the WisePeer listener from the compulsion to “handle things” and making it possible to do something remarkable: be present.
Each session, whether in the listener or speaker’s role, is experienced as healing, as whole-making, in other words, as a reminder of your innate wholeness and deep inner wisdom.
If this sounds complex, difficult, or overly serious, it isn’t. Understanding grows organically and naturally. You train as a WisePeer in an inspiring and humorful 12-week training among peers you likely will grow to love and cherish.
What it Is and What it Is Not
WisePeer sessions are not a gabfest or an hour of sympathetic listening. They are rigorously structured facilitative sessions designed to maximize effectiveness, facilitate breakthroughs and transformation, and create the experience of healing and empowerment.
“I am still meeting weekly with my first peer facilitator. In this way, no inner troubles ever have a chance to build up and fester; I have a sounding-board at all times. I am never ‘on my own,’ which is the most corrosive and unhealthy, yet all too modern, condition. Continued WisePeer support is for mental and emotional health what brushing my teeth is for my mouth, an ongoing program that insures a whole and healthy me.” ~A former student
Wise Peer is not advice.* It is not counseling. It is not a chance to “unburden” yourself. The WisePeer techniques train you to become a highly skilled transformational listener and facilitator. WisePeer trains you to become an effective receiver of Wise Attention, as well as an intuitive and intelligent listener with many tools that allow you to facilitate insights, breakthroughs and if desired, catharsis while maintaining a balance of power that prevents the unhealthful power differential that can be encountered in some types of therapy.
* As the WisePeer speaker, the premise is that you have all the answers within you. Your WisePeer listener always remembers that. This gives you the freedom to explore the depths of your being and your past and present without fear of being thought foolish, weak, or worse. And when it is your turn to listen, you can do the same for the other person, holding the space for their wholeness and inner wisdom.
Wise Peer teaches specific tools…
…that let you hold space effortlessly for anything your WisePeer partner may share in session.
This specialized grounding process is a fantastic tool in any stressful situation and useful for anyone whose job it is to listen, such as in in the healing arts,* in sales and management.
* As most nurses, body workers, and therapists know, healing work can be extremely exhausting. The grounding, as taught in Wise Peer, can make a huge difference in keeping your fresh and strong.
Wise Peer teaches specific techniques…
…with which to create a safe, loving, and empowering container. You are taught how to hold space effectively and listen with Wise Attention.
Wise Peer teaches specific tools for the role of listener…
…with which to facilitate the emergence of the WisePeer’s inner wisdom, such as
- Hearing the subtext
- Reading the body
- Reading the face
- Creating emotional safety
- Keeping emotions from spinning out of control
- Guidance away from unhealthy repetition that would, unchecked, deepen the grooves of trauma*
****Wise Peer provides specific tools for the role of speaker that allow you to:
- Discover what informs you and frames your reality on the most basic level
- Meet inner pain and become calm
- Use directed love as a healing tool
- Recognize and understand your repeat behaviors
- Discover your secret beliefs that shape your feelings and actions
- Create new and supportive behavioral patterns, using current neuroscientific understanding
What’s the difference between the weekend and the 12-week seminar?
The weekend workshop and 12-week seminar teach the same essential tools and skills.
The Weekend Workshop
- You are supported by handouts and your own notes
- All 22 tools are presented and a selection of them are practiced in real time.
- There is limited time to ask questions about what you are learning.
- After completions of the workshop, you can arrange practice sessions with any partner of your choosing but such sessions are not set up by the program and, therefore not guaranteed and depend on the relationships you form during the workshop.
- There is no 9-month practicum.
- You will receive a WisePeer Certificate of Completion
The 12-week Seminar
- Weekly handouts describe tools and their application.
- You are taught two to three tools and skills per class.
- Each tool is practiced during class
- After each tool or skill, there is time for in-depth follow-up questions and discussion.
- At the start of each session, you share and discuss your experience from your in-between-classes practice session. (You are taught a powerful sharing technique that preserves absolute privacy of participants.)
- The workshop leader will participate in one session each week, giving each student an opportunity to have a session with workshop leader.
- At the end of twelve weeks, you are partnered with another WisePeer for a 9-month practicum of weekly sessions.
- At the end of nine months, you are awarded certification as WisePeer facilitator.
During the weekend workshop, you will learn WisePeer skills that are healing, insightful, deeply supportive, and cathartic. At the end, you will receive a certificate of completion.
To become a certified WisePeer facilitator requires completion of 40 hrs of peer facilitation (all hours of WisePeer partnering count, whether as listener or speaker) and 20 hours of one-way facilitation.* Graduation is held nine months after the end of the 12-week seminar at which we gather for a splendid graduation party where you will receive your certificate.
* Students can complete the 20 hours on their own time table, as long as the period is no shorter than 20 weeks (1 weekly session) and no longer than 9 months. Students can choose with whom to have these sessions and they don’t have to take place with trained WisePeer partners.
To attend the workshop, please go to Pre-Registration to pre-register.
- Put the name, Wise Peer Workshop, into the subject line.
- In the contact form body, please give all your contact info: name, email, phone, address.
- Additionally, briefly explain why you would like to take the program of your choosing.
Once a minimum of eight students have pre-registered I will send out an online scheduler to determine the dates and times most participants will be available.
Days & Times
Workshops will always be held Friday through Sunday. The Friday evening session will be held from 5:45 – 9 pm. The Saturday and Sunday sessions will be held from 11 am – 7 pm with regularly scheduled breaks, including lunch at 1 pm and dinner at 5 pm.
One trade or scholarship is available per workshop. Trade consists of a number of hours equal to the program’s 19 hrs.
Poem about listening by Leo Buscaglia*****
When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving me advice,
you have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something
to solve my problem,
you have failed me, strange as that may seem.
All I ask is that you listen.
Don’t talk or do – just hear me.
Advice is cheap – 20 cents will get you both
Dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper.
And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.
When you do something for me that I can
and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and inadequacy.
But when you accept as a simple fact
that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational,
then I can stop trying to convince you
and get about this business of understanding
what’s behind this irrational feeling.
And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious
and I don’t need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense
when we understand what’s behind them.
Perhaps that’s why prayer works – sometimes –
for some people, because God is mute.
and he doesn’t give advice or try to fix things.
God just listens and lets you work it out for yourself.
So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk,
wait a minute for your turn,
and I will listen to you.