A Different Level in Listening

Kampung Roe - TB PelangiWe can close our eyes and not see, or look the other way. But how often do we close our ears to not hear?

Stimulation through our hearing happens almost 24/7, hence it is quite crucial to care for it wisely. Hearing, interestingly, also develops earlier than sight or even the sensitivity of the skin when we are still in the womb – speech and smell come much later.

But what are we actually hearing with these highly-developed sense of ours? When we say we are listening, what is it that we are listening to? How do we actually listen? What generates from our process of listening?

An honest personal experience – I sit down, I listen to you, but am I really listening to what you say? I sit and my eyes are fixed (mostly) towards you. You speak and my mind immediately, secretly wonders.

The mind is saying all sorts of things: I know where this is going, it’s so typical of you, oh I didn’t know that about you, I have similar experience too, when will you stop so that I can start sharing my experiences and giving you my advices and wisdom.

Wait, I need to listen. I return to you, I watch and listen to you, and the mind starts to go astray yet once again.

Imagine when the conversation happens within — between us and ourselves. Imagine how chatty the conversation gets. An emotion arises and immediately the mind starts to analyze it. Commentaries come. Another comment arises to counter the first analysis. The brain or our sense gets stimulated by another thing. Another commentary occurs. An objection arises. This might go on and on. Busy body.

At one point, the body would get tired, and get tired of it. It needs to stop. Intuitively we know that this feels unnatural. This does not feel like listening, as we are not hearing what it is that the other party (or oneself) is actually saying. So one (meaning me in this case, and perhaps you too) starts to find another way of listening.

I have sought and come across many ways of improving our listening techniques. While I find all of them useful and interesting, I am drawn to a particular way of listening.

This listening has a straightforward ‘technique’ or you can say none at all: We simply listen and acknowledge what we hear, with kindness. I will try to explain my experience to you. Perhaps that would be the best way to describe it. Do note that I have yet to master this. I am still learning.

Here, we set our intention to really listen and be with what is. We let go of the control and allow whatever arise to arise. Our body becomes more relaxed. Notice when the body is tense; the noticing itself would relax the body. We gently bring our awareness to our senses (ears, eyes, skin) and we expand it to within our body/mind and the surrounding, including the people we are with.

We remain quiet — as much as humanly possible — and we simply stay with this awareness. We listen, with full respect to what is before us. In this quietness, we trust that whatever arises needs to arise. We notice when our mind returns to its commentator mode, our emotions come and go, and gently return to our listening. Over and over and over again.

So yes, we simply set our intention to listen, be with what is, and allow whatever needs to arise to arise.

When we’re ready, even the listener, the “we” in this article, would need to be let go as well. “We” is not that important anymore in this case. The listening is.

This is a very interesting experiment, to say the least. We would start to really notice how chatty our mind is and how it would calm down when true listening happens.

We would start to hear what the others are really saying, and the other parties too can feel that they are heard. This is key. Humans have the innate need to be heard and we know when we have been heard. It is a precious experience of being met. Understanding happens.

At the end of the day, this manner of listening is in fact a way of being. We simply listen and allow what happens to happen. When this occurs, we would intuitively know how to respond — be it through speech or actions.

True listening leads to real understanding and proper responses. The whole life then becomes an ongoing course of listening. This is how important listening is to me personally, and why I feel the need to share it with you.

The article was first published on The Jakarta Globe’s blogs. The photo was taken at Kampung Roe, Flores, during a visit to Taman Bacaan Pelangi‘s library.

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