How to Listen

How to Listen

Recently, the art of correct listening has come up several times here and elsewhere. As Nirmala observed, a spiritual teachers job is to point the student at what is already present. The student’s job on the other hand is to listen correctly. Indeed, the entire story of our life can be told from where we are listening.

Where we are listening from is another way of saying the perspective we bring to what is occurring.

In a way, we could say we are a layered being. We have various levels of function. If our attention is working from a given level, this will affect how we perceive and respond to the world.

To illustrate: If we are in our emotions, we can be said to be listening from our emotions. This means we will be in a reactive state, seeing the world from our dramas and responding in kind. Often, a spiritual teacher will start a meeting with meditation. This helps settle the room, but also shifts our perspective, shifts where we are listening from.

Lets look at the layers and where we might be listening from:

0 – body = physicality or presence [addendum – see comments below]
1 – with emotions = reactivity
2 – with the mind = judgment, comparing, in the past and future
3 – with feelings, subtle = how it is for me, how it feels now
4 – with the deep intellect, knowingness, intuition = truth, connection
5 – with silence = complete openness, receptivity to presence, becoming

The mind may not feel satisfied in going to a talk if it doesn’t engage, make notes, have a discovery. But if we can listen from a deeper value, deeper connections are made. If we can listen from the silence itself – at least some of the time – we step into a conversation of Self with Itself. We begin to mirror that which is present, a powerful tool for awakening.

Deep listening may not leave memory impressions, so what is said cannot be recalled. What some of my friends do is listen deeply during, then listen to a recording of the talk later to satisfy the mind. This also gives their mind permission to let go, to allow in the moment.

The same principles work for any medium or sense. We can “listen” with Self while reading as well . One can feel the connection to Self, sense the deepening and expanding, the peace and subtle (or not so subtle) bliss.

The perfection of listening is being that which both speaks and listens, in Itself. In being That we are it.

Last Updated on April 8, 2014 by

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  1. Kaushik

    This is good, and useful the way you have it categorized.

    Tolle suggests to listen with the entire body. This was helpful to me for a time, when I never really listened at all. (The mind swooshed away within the first two seconds that someone starts to speak). Now I see it as the entire conversation, or music, or the subvocals of reading or writing, occurring in the space of Awareness. We become the conversation itself. It’s nice.

  2. Davidya

    You’re right. The body is a curious path. In a way, it is coarser than emotions. Body awareness in itself is a good practice for moving through difficult purification. But ongoing, it can lead to mental dullness. Yet at the same time, the body in a way can transcend the emotional story, it can make us more present to what is, now. Many good techniques use body or breath awareness to culture presence – which is not dulling. Body can only be now. No mind to take it past or future.

    Yes, the conversation itself. Well put.

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