In the buzz of a vast information network that bombards the human consciousness with a combination of tantalizing mind-candy and instant sense gratification, we are being pressured to adapt by developing shorter attention spans. Like a pebble skipping across the surface of the water, we are being influenced to think, move and react to one other in this immediate access society with quick blips of superficial information in order to effectively exchange the next bit of trending news.
But in the wake of this circus of data, are we actually paying attention to the information that we are moving at an astounding rate? In becoming “super-efficient,” are we forgetting how to really listen and therefore connect to the depth of the world around us? And how much does this behavior feed the growing lack of fulfillment that we often see reflected in our society?
Many commonly regard the words “hearing” and “listening” as synonyms. But the truth is they are not the same at all. Though “hearing” is the sense by which sound is perceived, “listening,” on the other hand, is defined by making an effort to hear something and taking the time to heed and/or pay attention to what you are hearing. This is an important distinction.
Consider for a moment, what does it mean to really listen? Have you observed how you listen? Are you taking time to heed and/or pay attention to what you are hearing? And most importantly, from what perspective do you listen? Why is any of this even important?
The art of listening with Awareness is becoming less common in today’s faced-paced, info-mover society, but it is a vital empathic skill that is rooted in consciousness and therefore needs attention and practice to be developed. When mastered, this way of “receiving” opens the door to that profound sense of (inner and outer) connection and acceptance that we all crave. How you take in information and what perspective you listen from can transform how deeply you feel and how effectively you can integrate and then communicate that experience of that information. You can only understand and respond to something at the level from which you are listening.
When there is little or no Awareness present in the quality of your listening, you are resigned “by default” to listen from a fairly unconscious, narrow bandwidth of consciousness which only offers a superficial perspective and lack of substance. This diminishes the quality of what is heard and your overall connection to the experience of its essence. This trend has created that growing sense of dissatisfaction of “not enough” that has translated into the desire to “get connected to the information highway” and not only have more access to acquire absurd amounts of information but also to obsessively “share” and quickly dispense this data in a manner that can never be truly fulfilling. The real solution to this issue is less about quantity and more about your intention and attention to quality. And the quality of your listening directly determines the quality of the information that you choose to engage with and how you chose to utilize it.
Why is this important to the seeker on their spiritual path? True spiritual teachings are deeply impactful and relevant because they invite you beneath the surface of the superficial world and inspire you to experience deeper realities, breakdown systems, unravel your identity and transcend the dualistic limitations of the mind. The inherent paradoxical nature of such teachings often creates a powerful invitation into more, other and beyond… But only if you are actually willing and able to really listen and receive the information. When you allow a pebble of truth to sink deep below the surface you can create the space and the opportunity to “tune in” to the symphony of infinite invitations offered by the Universe. And eventually with practice it will awaken those deeper and more expansive realms of consciousness that are thriving just below the surface but are often glossed over and ignored by the distraction of superficiality.
Here are 7 suggestions on how to observe, practice and develop the quality of your listening:
1. All Awareness needs space to flourish. Choose to listen to everything (inwardly and outwardly) from a perspective of space. Invite the space to pause for reflection. When you listen from this perspective, then you have a greater ability to respond rather than react. The difference between responding and reacting to anything is a simple pause of space that allows you the opportunity to connect to an ever-expanding Awareness which allows you to go deeper before you choose to engage.
2. Listen to your feelings. Be aware of how you feel. How does your present experience affect your emotional body and how does that impact your actions or reactions? If you are listening to this powerful field of influence within you, it will reveal your conscious/unconscious relationship to past issues, dynamics, blockages, and unhealthy and outdated belief systems that may need your attention and refinement. It also reveals powerful clues to what brings you great joy and connects you to yourself and the world around you. This can change your relationship to everything.
3. Be present in the moment. Pay attention. When conversing with another, so many tolerate “listening” until they can get a chance to say something. That is not really listening, that is actually just waiting for your chance to speak. Do you really care about what that person is saying? Are you paying attention? What is motivating your knee-jerk behavior to jump in and speak? How can you be present with another person and actively listen if you are already busy thinking about what you can say in the immediate future? The ability to connect and respond to something or someone requires space to absorb what is being said, and listening can be the difference between talking ‘to’ someone instead of talking ‘at’ someone.
4. Listen without an agenda. Oftentimes, there is a predetermined agenda that filters our ability to connect with someone or something inwardly or outwardly and listen to its true nature. Listen from an open space with no plans, tactics, or predetermined judgment about the situation or experience. There is no need to prove anything. So many of our conversations or encounters are just about acquiring data to justify a position to which we are invested. When this happens, you are only listening to get the information you want to hear in order to justify something, and you can be missing out to the potential richness that is present for you.
5. Listen without the need to understand. This was one of the most powerful pieces of advice offered to me on my spiritual journey as I was trying to integrate all the information presented to me. Let go trying to grasp and understand everything. Sometimes it is more powerful to just let it be, and “put it on the back burner.” This leaves space to allow those dots to connect and realization to arise from within you. If you “need to understand,” then you are most likely stuck in the spinning limitations of the mind. This demand on your experience can diminish your ability to listen, feel and integrate the inherent transmission of something by having to figure it out first. This is not saying that it is not important to understand, because sometimes when we begin to understand something at a deeper level, it helps to soften and release the mind, which allows more space for expanding Awareness. But let go of the desperate “need” to know and understand at the expense of deeper listening from beyond the mind.
6. Listen without trying to acquire anything. When you are listening from the limitation of the superficial mind, there is always a powerful desire to try to acquire something – to add something to your repertoire, find the answer, have more information, or add more data. With all of the energy that you are using to acquire more information, you are actually in the way of what is being offered and you are not really listening. Therefore, you are often missing the depth and essence of the teaching or experience that is present. There is a misconception on the spiritual path that we need to acquire: more systems, information, techniques or truths. But these pieces of information are merely stepping stones to point you within where everything you need is already present: acquire nothing and discover everything.
7. Expand your bandwidth. Don’t settle. Human beings are multidimensional receivers absorbing all kinds of powerful information from multiple realms and levels of consciousness. Some of these “stations” that we listen to are very obvious but some are very subtle. Don’t settle on what is obvious. Focus your intention to open your frequency to receive from more than a couple of channels or stations. In other words, listen deeper and expand your bandwidth and explore the different and more subtle frequencies of Awareness. The possibilities are infinite, and they are all available to you if you choose to listen.
A powerful way to practice these principles is to pay attention to the way you listen to the natural world: The sound of falling rain, a dramatic thunderstorm, a rushing waterfall or a babbling brook, the wind blowing through the trees, the waves of the ocean crashing on the beach or the songs of the birds, crickets, or frogs…
When you tune in to the experience of nature, you will notice there is a space where there is no sense of acquiring, you are not trying to understand, and there is no agenda… Relax, breathe, be open. Give yourself permission to just let go… and really listen… Listen to the experience with a perspective of space. Expand your bandwidth. Pause. Let it penetrate your being. How do you feel? As you continue to expand and deepen your quality of listening, you are now choosing with Awareness to be present, connected and you are allowing the invitation of the transmission of what is all around and within you. Apply this everywhere, and eventually, with practice, you will notice that you will continue to listen and access the essence of any experience in every circumstance far beyond the superficial world of sound… It’s all available to you. The choice is yours…
And the more you are truly listening from your heart, the more you are able to hear.