Listening, like silent movies and the model-T car, may seem all but obsolete. As we trumpet our daily dramas on television, “anti-social” media and announce to the world our “need to be heard,” I wonder. Do we really know what it means to listen? In today’s article, we’ll look at ways to “truly listen”—to ourselves and to others, on any subject, … and learn more about life.
Listening isn’t taught
Like most vital skills: listening, sharing, enjoying, praying, getting to know ourselves, setting goals, making love, raising families, growing crops, hunting, starting fires and building shelter—are not taught in most schools. Although teachers may repeat the words, “Quiet!” and “Listen!” at varying levels of volume, the reality they “taught” me in school, was that to “listen” meant to be “silent” while they spoke about things that were of little interest to me. Instead of opening my eyes and mind to the wide, wonderful world of listening, or even introducing listening an essential tool to learning, listening became defined as a source of nearly painful boredom. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized that to find and reap the treasures of listening, I needed something more.
Many teachers don’t know how to listen
In life, we often become the labels and titles that we accept. If we believe that we are teachers (to our children, employees, parents, students), we may assume that our role is to speak and share information—not to listen. We may even arrogantly assume that we are smarter than those to whom we speak. Although sharing knowledge can be a generous quality, it is only received as such if the person to whom we are speaking is interested in what we chose to share. As teachers, it is important that we are also students of our situations and choose to listen and learn, not just teach. As Bob Marley said, “Free speech carries with it, some freedom to listen.”
Through my work to inspire people to kick their dead-end habits to the curb, I’ve listened to innumerable life-stories. Time and again, it is the clients who choose to listen—to intuitive guidance, their thoughts, feelings and senses, that have the willpower to kick addictions and be their most successful self. On the other hand, those who refuse to listen—and instead choose to check out through drugs, alcohol, denial, distraction, work, etc., suffer the immense pain of addiction and then share that pain with everyone who becomes near and/or dear to them.
Listening is our best teacher
Although listening may very well be an “endangered quality,” we can choose to restore and honor its sacred gift. It’s simple to do. It’s free. And it’s the best teacher. And once we listen and know the truth, we can act accordingly and live truly.
What is listening, really?
True listening is giving 100% attention while observing with the purpose of learning.
Examples of true listening include:
1) sitting peacefully in any situation and observing it with curious kindness.
2) allowing ourselves to freely observe our thoughts and feelings without criticism or punishment.
3) allowing ourselves to turn off our phones or ringers most of the time so we can observe Life without giving a percentage of our attention to our phone.
4) allowing ourselves and others to speak without interruption.
5) deeply observing—“listening” with all of our senses to what someone is really saying with their whole being. For example, are they saying “yes” while their body is saying “no?”
6) simply observing–not judging or figuring how to manipulate a situation while listening. If we are taking time to think and feel and judge, we are not giving 100% attention, we are keeping percentages for ourselves.
When we listen with an open mind and heart, we can learn! Who wants to just sit around and talk to ourselves? Not even Life/God—so here we all are, created to communicate and listen and learn and experience and enjoy each other. And when we learn through listening, we can make learning a whole lot more fun!!! By learning through listening, we avoid learning “the hard way”—through the experience of disappointment and mistakes of all sorts. We can also pro-actively learn new ways of being successful from those whom have already learned “the hard way,” or are simply kind enough to teach us—simply by listening.
Is there a “special someone” to whom we cannot listen?
If we have lost our ability to listen and learn, it is no one’s fault but our own. We might be afraid, angry, in judgment, trying to deny that something in them is like something in us, or some other reason that is worth “working out” of ourselves. We mustn’t lie to ourselves and let ourselves believe that anyone else “pushes our buttons.” We push our own buttons by being poor listeners. Let’s own it so we can disown it.
Can we be better listeners?
Listening is truly honoring life—honoring what it is and what we are. Most of us could benefit from becoming better listeners. The rub is, can we do it in a way that’s enjoyable?
If you’re ready to explore listening on a deeper level, set aside time in the morning and evening (at the very least) to listen to yourself. Ask, “how do I feel?” then listen and accept the answer. Ask, “what do I think? then listen and accept the answer. Write your answers down if that’s helpful. It’s astounding how much we can learn when we simply take time to ask, listen and accept ourselves. And the understanding, strength and peace that we experience is more than enough reward.
There is always more to learn
Always. This is a great big amazing world and we are great big amazing creations from which to learn. If we don’t believe this, then we have become constipated by fear and arrogance—believing that we are better than others and that what we have to say is more important. How can we know if this is us? If we finish a “conversation” with someone and have learned nothing—about the content or the person, we are self-absorbed and not listening. If instead, like the Dalai Lama, we look at every person and conversation as an opportunity to learn, we are truly listening and honoring what Life and people have to offer.
I challenge/encourage you. How can you be a better listener—to yourself and others? Please share your thoughts and feelings so we may grow in strength and willpower together …
Always with love,
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