This exercise is a combination of active listening and free flow creativity that has popped up in a couple of quite diverse events recently, including the Search Inside Yourself newsletter, a mediation retreat and a Catholic mens group. Every time I do this exercise I learn something new and grow the relationship with the other person.
Grab a friend, lover, acquaintance, or even a random stranger (I did this once at a coffee shop and it was an AMAZING thing), and take 10 minutes to do the following:
Be in a place where you can hear each other clearly and there will not be interruptions and you will not be self-conscious. Flip a coin to see who starts. Set a timer for three minutes. Each person 3 minutes to talk, while the other listens mindfully without comment. The initial talking should be done stream of consciousness style – without editing or overthinking. Talk about anything, the weather, what you are doing in the day, how stupid the exercise is, the silly looking person across the room, whatever, the key is to just keep talking non-stop for 3 minutes. As you speak, simply notice what emotions arise, what you say and how you say it. The key is to listen mindfully without interrupting and to share without self-critique or editing. After both have spoken, spend the last 3 minutes in normal conversation together debriefing and reflecting on the exercise.
When I have done this, it is amazing how long talking for three minutes feels like. It is also interesting to note all the feelings that come up while trying to fill 3 minutes. When listening, I find myself striving to jump in and encourage someone having a hard time filling the time, or wanting to comment on something. It takes focused effort to allow the speaker to speak. When speaking and having someone paying full attention for 3 minutes, it is an amazing gift. Likely those 3 minutes are the most time during that day that you will be consciously aware you have another beings FULL AND UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. That is an amazing blessing and reminds me to give that level of attention to others more often.
Also published on Medium.