Friday, October 1, 2010

The Art of Listening

I have made the observation, in myself, in those around me, and in greater society, that we are lousy listeners. We are so busy texting, e-mailing, listening to the radio, talking, assessing, formulating, disregarding, denouncing, watching something…that we don’t really hear what is going on around us. 
Door County, WI, Cana Island Lighthouse

Oh, we like to think we are such good listeners. We listen to our bodies in asana practice to ascertain if we’ve gone too far or not far enough. We listen to our breath to bring
our awareness internal. We like to think we listen to our significant other’s/friends/parents needs.

But do we? Really?

For example, when I’m leading class, more often than not I can easily tell who’s not paying attention. Who’s eyes are roving around the room watching what everyone else is doing or checking out the person next to them, who’s paid no attention to the cue to not press one’s thumb into the floor during utipliti, who’s picking at their toes in Janu Sirasana.

For example, closer to home, when describing what can be eaten for lunch that day only to have that household member say over dinner, “I thought I couldn’t eat that so I just went out.”

For example, at work during a meeting, everyone’s talking, but nobody’s listening (except maybe the note taker). Everyone wants to push their personal agenda, but they don’t want to deal with someone else’s.

For example, when was the last time you just stepped outside, closed your eyes and just…listened? When was the last time you turned the radio off in the car and listened to what your passenger was saying? When was the last time you turned the TV off during dinner and actually listened to what your dining companion was talking about? And just let them talk without judging, defending, or rebutting?

If you truly want to confront your ego, try listening.

Editing to add: Yogiclarebear had a great post on listening back in mid-September that I just saw now.  Please take a moment and visit her posting:  Dog Poop, a Lesson in Listening


Bob Weisenberg said...

A very wise blog. Interesting enough, this is one of the most important skills in getting things done in the world, too, in addition to all its spiritual and communications benefits.

Bob W. said...


Thank you for the link share. I had to laugh at the Janu toe picking…gosh that is so me sometimes! But I like to think of it as “listening to the impulse of my heart in that I really need to get that hanging cuticle.” Haha!

In meditation the other night, the wind was howling and the building we were in was creaking and moaning all through our silent practice. After our session, one woman was so upset that the noise was distracting her focus. I found it interesting in myself that the noise was part of my focus, part of being fully present. I don’t know if either is right or wrong, but thought the differing perspectives offered an example of the differences in people’s internal and external listening development.

“If you truly want to confront your ego, try listening.” Your last statement hits the nail on the head. It is so easy to point out when other’s aren’t listening, but for me, writing that blog article that I did, it was so much more self-recognition in this area. It seems like in my case, an extreme example of this “listening problem” in someone else brought my awareness to my own serious lack in listening ability/skill.