Listening for energy

ting jin

As I write this post, I have just finished a meeting with a client where there was a powerful moment that came from deep listening to what sat behind the words and content of the conversation. It even sat behind the context or source of the issues being discussed. It sat in the deep energy behind this.

Today I’ll say more and give some examples from experience around “Listening for Energy”.

In Tai Chi, “Ting Jin” can loosely be translated as “Listening Energy”. From this article by Rick Barrett:

“Ting jin is “listening energy”–sensing the insubstantial as well as the substantial. Knowing that is not entirely depending on the outward appearance of things. It’s the sixth sense that tells you Little Jimmy had a bad day at school, or that the salesman is not telling you something important about that used car. It tells the martial artist that a punch is about to thrown or an energy healer what points to hold and how long. It tells Yoda that there is a “disturbance in the Force.” Highly developed ting jin gives you a preternatural ability to read what is going on.

Ting jin arises from meeting another with your whole being, not with a divided mind.”

My client meeting today saw me sense an energetic point for them that unlocked something deep and powerful. They felt and acknowledged it, then noted that perhaps the events of the last few days for me had “tuned” my “radar” for listening for energy. I sense they were right.

The evening before that meeting I had gone to a concert at the O2 arena with about 20,000 other people in the loving thrall of Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine, Through her energy as well as genuine and caring words and actions (such as having the whole audience hold hands at one point), there was a deep connection created. For me, this was also added to by having taken someone to the concert for whom this was their first concert in their life, so I was also focussed on their energy and that they were having a wonderful time without feeling sensory overwhelm.

Prior to that concert experience, I had spend the previous few days facilitating a retreat, as I wrote about yesterday in : “PUSH and PULL, finding the right balance“, noting that we had:

“a conscious design to “hold”, to have no set agenda or formal structure for the first day and a half of the two days.

At times I felt the struggle in the energy of staying with the frame of exploring the ideas rather than moving them towards anything structured, yet I stayed with it.

Finally, at what felt like the right moment, I stopped the “hold” energy and shifted to releasing the strong “pull” energy that had been built up, with the group {then} highly attracted to developing a structure and actions to come out of the retreat.”

Now, in between the retreat and the concert I had a regular call with a friend in upstate New York, Bruce Peters. On that call I shared the energetic experience I had felt as the facilitator of the retreat, and he related it to the work of Wilfred Bion many years ago.

I read Bruce’s email to me right before that client meeting I noted earlier. In his email he wrote to me to reflect on his concise encapsulation of Bion’s work and what he’d heard me say, again concisely put, about the retreat experience:

{Bion’s} research technique would be to call a meeting and then sit silently and take notes as to the reactions of the individuals and the group. In addition to specific behaviors he was in a way, also, observing energy.

In a nutshell no matter what or who was in the Group the behaviors and responses of the Group were essentially the same. The anxiety of silence and how people deal with it turned out to provide clues if not the doorway to how to get through.

In a nutshell his approach was sort of the penultimate version of self organizing. In his case he provided virtually no context and just observed. Every time I revisit his work and thought process I am astounded at the courage it must have taken to just sit in silence…..not try to fix or intervene in any way. It was a magnificent gift to the participants.

The elegant simplicity of “manage meaning” and “maximize connection” evolved into my questions “why are we here?” and “how are we to here together?”

It seems to me your “beautiful” process did both!”

Bruce is a wonderful gift to me and, I imagine, everyone he connects with.

One of my most read posts is called: “We are the sum total of our experiences” and I do believe my client was right. My “Ting Jin”, my listening energy was attuned and amplified in my client meeting by the combination (in chronological order) of facilitating the retreat, going to the concert, talking to Bruce, then receiving his email.

All of this has me reflect on an experience one of my first mentor coaches shared with me while I was his mentee. He was teaching me to listen for context and he told me at one time of a fresh experience where he had been asked to coach a group of leaders from a business who spoke German only. He would pose them a question to work on at their tables. After translation, they would discuss amongst themselves in German, then reply in German, which would then be translated.

He shared this story with me and said “this was pure coaching, listening for context”.

I did not fully understand what he meant at the time. I do now. Context is what is meant behind all of the words, yet it was not that which he picked up from listening to them talk to each other in a language he did not understand, it was their energy. Listening to a group of clients work in a foreign language was amazing for him to use to focus in his Tai Jin”.

So, a reminder of what Rick Barrett says of Tai Jin:

“It’s the sixth sense that tells you Little Jimmy had a bad day at school, or that the salesman is not telling you something important about that used car. It tells the martial artist that a punch is about to thrown or an energy healer what points to hold and how long. It tells Yoda that there is a “disturbance in the Force.”

What can you choose to focus upon in order to attune and amplify your Tai Jin so you can pick up such things more and more easily and often?

Deepening your listening energy is one of the most powerful tools any leader can have, as there is nothing more connecting for humans than feeling listened to.