There is no greater need than the capacity to hear. I am not referring, however, to audible hearing, as important as it is. I am referring instead to the capacity to hear at a deeply intuitive level. Becoming a better listener at this level would enhance every aspect of your life.
Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.” I’ve learned, “When you hear better, you do better.” In other words, better listeners live more deeply connected to themselves; they lead others more effectively; and, over-all, they live healthier, happier lives.”
How do you become a better listener? Here are three valuable lessons I have learned.
1. Separate the many voices in your head from the main voice of your heart.
Rumi, the Sufi poet, said, “Direct your attention within; it is the force within gives life…seek that.”
The “force within” is the voice within.
But that’s the challenge. If all we ever heard was one voice in our heads, choices and decisions would not be so difficult or complicated.
The fact is, however, almost everyone hears, not one voice but many voices. As a consequence, almost everyone is tentative in making decisions. Sometimes, we feel paralyzed in making simple choices.
How do you separate the many voices in your head? More importantly, how do you become a better listener of the singular voice of your heart?
2. Make it your regular practice to question the thoughts in your head.
Thoughts are like boxcars on a train, each attached to the preceding thought and the one that follows. When you question a thought, however, the question acts like a conductor detaching one thought from another. This separation makes it possible for you to be a better listener. The detachment puts a space between thoughts. While generally short-lived, this space creates just enough silence between you and a decision you need to make, providing space to hear the voice of your heart.
It is the voice of your heart you must hear.
The voice of your heart is…
The V-ital Voice
The O-fficial Voice
The I-nfallible Voice
The C-lear Voice
The E-pert Voice
When you question your thoughts you instantly become what some in the East refer to as “the witnessing presence.” By witnessing the many thoughts in your head, you will become a better listener of the main voice in your heart.
Now, this will take practice because the number of thoughts that pass across your mind every day is staggering. Some researchers say there are approximately 30,000 thoughts each day. Others say more than this.
What we know is that two things distinguish the 30,000 to 50,000 (give-or-take a few thousand) thoughts that daily roll like noisy boxcars across the track of your mind.
1) Most thoughts are repetitive.
2) Almost all of them are wrong.
Your thoughts often contain just enough truth to be deceptive. They are like the slogan the Lottery Commission used for several years to promote the purchase of Powerball Tickets. The slogan was: “Somebody’s Gonna Win; Might as Well Be You!”
Isn’t there just enough truth in that to be deceptive? Somebody IS going to win. The odds that the winner will be you or me is almost non-existent.
On its own website, for example, the Lottery Commission says your chances of winning the Powerball Lottery are about 1 in 175 million.
But what does that really mean?
It means your odds are slim to none, says Ronald Wasserstein, Executive Director of the American Statistical Association pointed in a recent, fascinating study.
The truthfulness of much of what you hear in your head is just as unreliable. So, make this questioning a daily spiritual practice. If you will, more and more space will appear, and over time even widen, and the voice of your heart will become ever easier to hear.
Which leads me to the third and most important suggestion for becoming a better listener.
3. Every now and again, pay attention to nothing.
That may sound strange but only if you remain unaware of the infinity of emptiness, or stillness, that surrounds us at all times.
When I was young, I enjoyed observing the stars on a clear night. Once, however, I became profoundly aware that outer space is mostly nothing. This awareness deeply moved me. While there are billions and billions of stars and galaxies, most of what we see is nothing.
But becoming aware of nothing can be transforming. It is space…emptiness…and, as such, it is still, quiet, and ever so consoling.
Inner space may be like this, too. Human cells are comprised of many things but high-powered microscopes have enabled us to see that a cell is mostly comprised of empty space, a kind of microcosm of the macrocosm above. Both are mostly empty space.
If you make it your practice to question every thought, then turn your attention to the space between thoughts, you will soon discover it is possible to actually quiet your mind…to temporarily silence the incessant stream of thoughts, and create a vast space of stillness.
This is essentially what meditation does for meditators. “Meditation,” writes Deepak Chopra, “is the progressive quieting of our mind.”
That’s it, then. If you wish to become a better listener…if you wish to enhance the quality of your life, your relationships, and your personal happiness, become a better listener.
The French composer, Claude Debussy said, “It’s the space between the notes that makes the music.”
I would say…
It’s the space between the thoughts in your head
that gives voice to your heart.
This post, in a slightly different format, first appeared at SimpleReminders.com and is entitled “Listening is the Way…”
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