Listening

The most important quality one can have is to be an excellent listener. Most people think they are listening when they are, in truth, merely giving attention with their eyes while thinking of what they want to say next. How can humanity consciously evolve without the ability to listen? Furthermore, what is listening? Do we even know where to begin?

To listen is to be present. It is necessary to listen not only to people and their problems, but even more important to stories of celebration, of love, to the sounds that surround us in nature, to the wind, and to ourselves. But, how to we listen to ourselves? If we cannot listen to ourselves, we cannot listen at all. Listening to ourselves requires having the calmness to feel subtleties in our emotion, our vibration and our thoughts that otherwise would go unnoticed. Begin with perhaps 60 seconds each day, perhaps when you wake up, and just observe your breaths. Be a passive observer as thoughts begin to move within your mind. Do not attach yourself to these thoughts or judge them. Notice the sounds around you, but do not respond to them. You have all day to respond, to react, make the first 60 seconds about observing. Observe your thoughts, but do not judge them. Thoughts are never good nor bad, it’s only our attachments to them and the way we act upon them that make them so. If we watch them passively, if we truly listen to them, we become the awareness that is aware that thinking, feeling, and breathing happen. We move outside of form. We owe ourselves the treasure of spending at least 60 seconds observing what our body is trying to say to us. All meditation is a prolonged period of listening to ones self and observing what approaches our perception as one listens beyond normal capability. Listening is the mother that gives birth to meditation.

Once we have learned the basics of how to listen to ourselves, which we find happens quickly once attention is given to it, only then are we capable of listening to anyone else. Only by listening are we capable of true friendship or love. Recently, I sat outside a small Tapas restaurant with my wife, observing the conversation four gentlemen were having behind me. After some time, my wife and I became included in the conversation with these gentlemen, all of whom I would guess were between 55 and 65 years of age. Over three hours our topics changed vastly from sports, to economics, to spirituality, to politics and so on. During each discussion, I noticed one man said little, only observing with a slight smile on his face and acknowledging all sides of the conversation. I will call him Glenn. The few comments Glenn made were remarkably simple, yet profound and insightful. Two of the remaining three men peppered in occassional commentary while interspersing with their own side commentary with one another. However, one man dominated the conversation. Lou, as I will call him, was an intelligent college professor who was obviously highly educated and well read. However, Lou’s obvious intelligence was overshadowed by his inability to listen to anyone, including his three friends. No matter the topic, Lou had a wealth of intelligent quotations, comments and parables. However, I had the feeling that despite Lou’s intellect and factual knowledge, his words lacked meaning. Lou’s three hours of constant quoting and commenting moved me less than the 30 words Glenn spoke all night.

Why was this the case? I had the feeling Glenn listened. He waited to speak until he could intelligently speak with purpose, instead of merely speaking to be heard. Lou’s wise words fell on deaf ears, while I will never forget some of the words Glenn spoke that night. As Lou spoke, I found him restating comments multiple times, speaking over people, and stifling the conversation in the process.

So, what can be gained in hearing this? Wise men can sound foolish when they cannot listen, yet insist on speaking. A fool who listens is no fool at all. When we open ourselves up to the light of listening, we open ourselves up for the true sharing of intellect, opinion, energy and love. When we listen to someone, with all of our being, we can respond in the most appropriate way to better the situation. In this way, we can make listening a meditation, and make that meditation a friendship. Be present in your next conversation, even if it only lasts a few moments. If you make this a practice, you will begin to stand out above others for your ability to empathize and assist others. You may even be able to help a friend or two along the way.

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