How Meditation Makes Us Better Listeners
Did you hear that?
You know that person who is always interrupting you, and pretends to listen when it’s so obvious he or she is doing anything but that? Who responds with either a completely unrelated follow-up question, or immediately hi-jacks the conversation into another direction. Oh hey, that was me. And I’m sure at times is still me.
Yep, for most of my life I was so busy having a gazillion conversations in my own head that anyone trying to have a conversation with me hardly stood a chance of being heard. Really, back then I could barely hear mySelf.
Becoming a better listener.
These days though, I’d say I’ve become a better listener. The gazillion conversations going on in my head have died down to double digits. And I even have people telling me how much they appreciate how heard they feel when speaking to me. Which is one of the ways my meditation practice has transformed my relationships – with both mySelf and with others.
Tara Brach says in The Sacred Art of Listening: “We spend most of our moments when someone is speaking, planning what we’re going to say, evaluating it, trying to come up with our presentation of our self, or controlling the situation. Pure listening is a letting go of control. It’s not easy and takes training… The bottom line is when we are listened to, we feel connected. When we’re not listened to, we feel separate.”
So how does our meditation practice make us better listeners?
When we practice meditation, we are really practicing letting go. Letting go of the gazillion conversations swirling in our heads. Letting go of the planning and the projecting. Letting go of control, or our identification with being the doer.
What makes us great listeners is that we listen with great attention. This means that we must be present, tending to the other person as they talk the same way that we tend to the breath as it moves – open and curious, without judgement, nor an agenda.
When we meditate, we practice being the witness, or observer. Which is really what our role is when we are the listener. We are there to take in the other person’s truth, and when it’s possible or welcomed, to reflect that truth back.
The invitation this week: practice deep, mindful listening
So if you’d like to change the way you hear yourSelf and those around you, the invitation this week is to practice Deep, Mindful Listening.
To begin, here’s a free, short guided mindfulness meditation to practice tending to the sounds around you. Then, after the meditation, you’re welcome to call a friend, or a family member and offer them your full attention. You just might notice that you hear them in a new way. As you listen, check in with how you feel. And you might notice that you feel different, too.
And if you don’t, that’s okay. As Tara Brach reminds us, “It’s not easy and it takes training.”
May we learn to listen without impatience / May we give neither praise nor blame, only listen / May we offer our attention in the present moment as a gift to each other / And may we feel how wonderful it is to be heard
And so it is.