The Art of Listening PART 1
eastwind journals 150


By Bernie Lopez
Permission is granted to re-publish with credits and notification.
Disclaimer – the views in this article are those of the author’s alone.


there is hidden wisdom
the silent can teach
but you have to listen well
to unspoken words and furtive smiles
your heart must be open
otherwise you are blind
to a world of excitement and magic
excerpt from the book
wings and wanderlust
the art of discovering your inner self
(to get the book, email


At a tender age, Ruth and her parents, together with thousands of other Jews, were rounded up into the Warsaw Ghetto, living like pigs in a giant sty with very little food. The SS planned them to be ransomed by the world Jewry to raise $2 million dollars to finance the invasion of Russia. A Christian family smuggled Ruth out of the Ghetto by simply putting her in a coffin, which was thrown into a cart full of corpses headed for the cemetery. There, she was smuggled out in the dead of night.


Ruth was an attractive blonde who eventually became a Broadway actress in New York. But the memory of Warsaw would linger and time and again haunt her, until one day, it took its toll. She withdrew totally from the world, not speaking, staring at the wall. Silent tears would suddenly flow. No one could draw her out of her darkness.


This was her dire emotional state when she was brought to the Bet Tzedek (Hall of Justice in Hebrew) Legal Services in a Jewish community in Fairfax, Los Angeles, USA, which offered free legal services for low-income residents. Bet Tzedek was a prestigious international Robin Hood of a law firm known as far as Tel Aviv and Washington DC. The firm wanted the German government to pay Ruth war reparations as a holocaust survivor. For days, the lawyers tried hard to pry her open, but she was like an ice-berg, cold, unmoved, opaque, unreachable. When the lawyers gave up, they passed her on to Lisa, the only Filipino woman in the group, hoping she could thaw the ice-berg.


Lisa, trained in the art of listening even as a young child by her father back in the Philippines, did not think twice about how to break-in Ruth. She knew what to do from the onset. She sat beside Ruth and held her hand without saying a word. She caressed her hair and touched her face. Ruth stared at her, and for the first time, gave a faint smile. Lisa knew the magic of touch. Touch was better than a thousand words. Later on, after Lisa left, Ruth spoke her very first words in three-odd years, asking for the name of Lisa.


Lisa came back prepared. She had a dreidel (a Jewish toy), and like little children, Lisa, in her late twenties, and Ruth, in her late thirties, played together. In English, Lisa said she lived in Germany before. Ruth said, “Spreken sie Deutch?” (Do you speak German?) Lisa answered, “Nein” (no). Gradually, the ice-berg melted under the intense heat of a dialogue of children. Ruth said she was originally from Poland. Slowly, from a trickle of words, there was a flood of unspoken darkness deep inside her soul.


She recalled her harrowing experience. The lawyers got the information they needed to file a case against the German government. Finally, she won her case. She was awarded about US$3,000 a month for the rest of her life, a small fortune which insured her future. Today, she lives in the Los Angeles area.


The Jewish community lauded the team of litigators. Lisa was head-lined in a local Jewish paper. The story of her expertise in the art of listening was featured in the front page. She became known far and wide, and her good karma, the story of the maiden of Warsaw, would spread like wildfire and catapult Lisa to high places, until she had her own modest business in cultural exchange, that would bring her to every nook of Western Europe, from Casablanca to Paris, Munich to Madrid, Rome to Copenhagen, Istanbul to Cairo, and to Asia and Latin Countries.


Three decades after, when I met Lisa, she gave me lessons in the art of listening. Eye contact is critical. It is when you are eyeball to eyeball that you can measure each other’s psyche, that magical or dire things happen. At the moment she first met Ruth, Lisa established eye contact which paved the way to dialogue. When you listen, do not distract or irritate the speaker with your urge to speak. Just keep quiet. You have to have a sixth sense when to butt in. And the only thing you are allowed to do is echo the words of the speaker and prod him, saying “Really?” or “Go on” Or “Very interesting”. Not just saying them, but meaning them. The other can discern your sincerity. Show your excitement and genuine interest in what the speaker is saying. Put yourself totally in the other person’s shoes. You have to have a curious mind about the other. Lisa said our ability to dialogue is inherent in us. You just have to discover it, tap it, and train it. Finally, she said the touch is sometimes the greatest ice-breaker, except when some shy away to touch. But in Ruth’s case, it worked. There is something spiritual in the physical.
is the gift of discovery
of people who are invisible
and places which are nowhere
is listening to the universe
and the souls
that whiz through time tunnels
is when a butterfly
alights on your shoulder
but only when you are not looking
are sudden friends
or sudden places
discovered in passing
excerpts from the book
wings and wanderlust
the art of discovering your inner self
to get the book


music corner – nat king cole playlist


for those who need healing
see guidelines and schedules to


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