What does it mean to have a conscious conversation? In its essence, it means to be there fully for the other person. In the short video below, spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle (b. February 16, 1948) offers a key insight into this life-affirming spiritual practice, delivered in his signature blend of gentle compassion and uplifting humor. In support of this important message to the world, I took it upon myself to outline the process in five steps for easy practice and application:
1. Be brave. Yes, it’s possible to have a conscious conversation, no matter the topic, no matter who you’re talking to, and no matter your differences of opinion.
2. Create space. Let the other person be there with you in a shared expanse of mutual understanding and presence.
3. Pay attention. As you listen, pay attention to the words, gestures, and emotions. Without attention, there is no conversation.
4. Be present. Pay equal attention to your own thoughts and emotions and be grounded in the now by slightly distancing yourself from the topic of discussion.
5. Show appreciation. No matter the outcome, express gratitude, for you have just glimpsed into the inner world of the other, without prejudice.
The video is only seven minutes long and is worth a watch in its entirety, below, if only to feel the warm energy filling up the room as Eckhart shares his wisdom with a young man who, like all of us, wants to be more understanding of other people. In these times of division and conflict, the art of conscious conversation is perhaps the most basic skill we need to master on an individual and collective level if we’re ever to make progress and overcome the challenges we’re currently facing.
Transcribed and edited highlights are below.
Q: Is it possible to have a conscious conversation?
A: Yes. A conscious conversation is a conversation between two people who do not identify with their viewpoint, perspective, and mental position. As they talk to each other, their sense of self1 is derived not from the content of their mind, but from the animating presence within; that is why they can easily play with concepts, arguments, and words. Even if their opinion is being challenged, they do not feel attacked personally. On the other hand, self-identification with mental positions is the unconsciousness.
Complement this enlightening video with Carl Rogers on the empathy as a way of being and what it means to enter another person’s world without prejudice and then revisit Buddhist nun Pema Chodron’s on-the-spot compassion practice “Just Like Me.”
1.Ultimately, there is no “self” but language is limited and has to name, label, categorize, and operate on the subject-object level.