Listen…

2018-07-18 14.05.29

I believe that most hindrances to the development of human society, to the functioning of relationships, to our happiness and fulfillment, and even to our survival in this world, stem from our poor communication.
 
And I’m not talking about how to say things, although that is also important. Our main issue is our difficulties with listening. As Tara Brach brilliantly puts it:
 
“More often than not, we don’t listen to understand, we listen to reply. Our concern is what we want to say, how we want to appear, what’s going on inside of us.”
 
This gets in the way of listening, and, while the Other speaks, we start developing our story of what the Other is saying, and communication stops.  The Other, by the way, can be anyone or anything.  Not only a person “out there”, but even yourself.  Or a plant, an animal.  The weather.   Yeah, I know:  that sounds esoteric.  And yet, the world is constantly communicating with us, sending us signals (sometimes even signs!), telling us things.  But do we listen?  We can, for sure.  I do try.  I stop, breathe, and listen… and then the voice inside starts, interrupting the flow from the Other, while I think, analyse, interprete.  And most often, judge. It is as if we’re wired for judging.  I like this, I don’t like that, mmm that sounds good, I’m such an idiot…

How to listen?

It’s not that difficult to listen.  To listen deeply and honestly.  And yet it requires a lot of practice.  And a strong intention.  I am trying to learn how to listen deeply, from my heart, as they say.  And how do I go about it? Unsurprisingly, I go about it with the tools of Mindfulness.

The first step is to be in my body, feel my breath, that gate between my conscious and unconscious selves.  Perhaps this sounds counterintuitive:  aren’t we supposed to be listening?  Why then spend resources in feeling one’s breath?  Well, if I don’t, I’m simply less here, engaging with the Other.  And more in my mind, going through the judging, interpreting, preparing replies…  More importantly, feeling my breath and physical presence, I can more easily notice the arising of distractions.  I gain a tiny bit of space between whatever I might interprete as a trigger and what would result as a reaction.  Not to control it, just to observe it and be aware:  “ah, I see that their words flatter my ego” or “ups, that hurts”.  That tiny space and observation allows one to relax.  To stay, one word at a time, with the Other.  Whoever and whatever that might be.

When I listen deeply and from the heart, it is like walking through a rich and complex landscape.  It can even feel a bit like getting high, I guess.  How often then I realise that there is more wisdom in me, or, rather, the space in which the Other can find a response, when I truly listen, leaving my agendas and judging somewhere else.

And how does one practice listening through mindful awareness?

The way I know is through meditation.

Many people believe you need to sit for a long time in order to meditate.  At least half an hour, or perhaps a couple of hours.  And while that can in itself be rewarding, it is not what will get you started.  Or at least not most people.

It is as simple as stopping doing For a minute, or three, or five.  Feeling your breath, feeling your body on the Earth (even on a high rise! or on a plane!).  And listening.  There are always sounds, outside, inside…  Pick one up.  Listen and notice how quickly you start interpreting, analysing it… “is that grasshoppers or frogs?”,  “what an annoying sound!”,  “that reminds me of…”.  How does it feel when that happens?  Is there an associated response in your body?  Whenever you realise that you’re drifting away, remember that you can go back to feeling your breath.  That’s it.  Repeat.  As often as you can.

Importantly, there is no wrong way of meditating.  It is not wrong when you catch yourself thinking about shopping, or that itch on your foot.  That is mindfull awareness.  “Where am I?  I’m here, and my mind is thinking about going to the kitchen and making bread.”  Ok.  Noted.  Now I can get on with listening to the Earth.

There is a wealth of free resources in the form of guided meditations to develop our sense of listening.  I feel that they do help one develop one’s own practice.

Some do take half an hour, or even more.  This might all seem like a waste of our precious time…  Yet I think that it’s probably one of the best investments we can make.  We spend so much of our lives un-doing the consequences of misunderstandings, and unintentionally isolating ourselves from the rest of the world…  how much easier and joyfull it would be if we actually knew what the Other is actually trying to tell us.

 

Resources

Just one of many sites with useful resources…  her words got me started on this post!
https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditations/

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