“Just listen,” is not as easy of a task as most make it out to be. Listening is an art, a skill that can be mastered.
How does one listen? I have always found it interesting that from a very young age, we have constantly been told to “listen” and to “pay attention” without ever being taught how to. Even as adults, we so often neglect the importance of what it truly means to listen.
Listening is an art, and trust me, it takes a lot of practice. There are a lot of aspects that come into play when listening to another speak.
Investing All of One’s Attention Into Listening
I would consider this to be the aspect of most importance when it comes to listening to another. Directing one’s attention towards one thing at a time requires intense focus, practice, and self-discipline (especially within the fast-paced society we’ve constructed for ourselves).
When listening to another, it is of utmost importance to give them all of your attention within that moment. If one is simultaneously attempting to complete a separate task, or if their mind is wandering the entire time, then their attention is not being fully invested in what the other has to say, and they are therefore not listening.
Being present goes hand in hand with investing one’s attention into what the other has to say. If one is not fully present for the other, whether it be focusing on what is to come, or focusing on what has already passed, then they will not be able to comprehend the message that the other is trying to convey within that moment.
To be present with someone is to be grounded within the moment, to connect on a deeper level; A level deeper than the identities and mental-constructs of what we expect others to be. It is important to do this so one can accurately become conscious of what the other is actually trying to communicate, instead of formulating one’s own misinterpretation of what the other was originally intending to express.
Maintaining an Open Mindset
If we hold onto the assumption that we already know what the other has to say, then we are also implying that whatever the other has to say is not important, or does not matter.
I always remind myself that regardless of what the other is trying to communicate, their feelings are valid, and they deserve to be heard. This does not mean that I have to agree with or believe everything that they have to say, but by no means does it suggest that I have to disregard their thoughts and feelings.
One cannot truly listen to what another is trying to communicate if they have already established a presumption in their mind of what they are going to say. If one listens with an open mind, letting go of all preconceived notions and expectations, then they will be able to effectively hear the message that the other is attempting to convey to them.
Acknowledging the Beingness in Another
Lastly, acknowledgement is so powerful. It is important to acknowledge the beingness and conscious aspect of the other as you are listening and present for them. The other is not simply an object existing only to serve, the other is a living, breathing, human being with thoughts, feelings, and perception just like you and me.
Once one practices becoming aware of the fact that how we treat others is equally as important to the way in which we treat ourselves, and that what others choose to express to us is equally as important to what we have to say, we then are able to communicate from a place of compassion and higher awareness rather than placing the importance only on the points that matter to us and our own objectives.
Your body is an anchor for presence.
Presence not only has to do with becoming aware of perception and the activity of the mind, but becoming aware of the energy within the physical body as well. Although our essence is the formless aspect of our being, we are also connected to and inhabit our temporary physical forms that exists here within this collective reality.
To learn more about this connection between the form and the formless, one can look into concepts such as Chakras, Kundalini, and Tantra. (These are just a few examples that have helped me, but there are many more).
It is important to treat our bodies as our temples, and remember to not neglect this aspect of ourselves.
Guide your attention towards being within the present moment, be content with what is.
For me personally, nothing is more important than being content within the present moment. Once one learns how to be satisfied with what is, or in other words, once one learns how to simply be, then awareness and inner peace have room to move in.
It may sound simple, but bringing all of your attention to the present moment is not always an easy task.
Like anything that can be mastered, it takes practice. Our mind consists of many thought and reactive patterns that are constantly playing through our heads on a daily basis. Sometimes we become so used to these thoughts and ways of reacting that we don’t even realize they’re there playing in the background.
We often forget that these thoughts are just thoughts, not who we are. When we take on thoughts as our identity instead of a passing production of our minds, we’re allowing our egos run the show and therefore slip into a negative cycle of judgement towards a part of ourselves that doesn’t even really exist (except as a mental construct within our own head), which often leads to more unnecessary suffering.
When one becomes conscious of the present moment, they simultaneously become aware. If you practice meditation, one way you could identify this awareness as a reference is as “the space between,” that calm and peaceful sensation that arises between each passing thought.
To forgive and let go of the past, to cease placing so much importance on the future, to be here now at all times, to be content and satisfied with all that is, there are many different paths to presence, but the goal is all the same.
This post was inspired by Eckhart Tolle, one of my greatest influences.