By Karin Marcus
In this age of instant global communication, it is ironic that one of the most common unmet universal needs is the need to be heard. It is precisely because we are surrounded by so much constant, extraneous information and endless noise, that we have lost the ability to hear ourselves think and to be in touch with our wise intuitive knowing. Perhaps the saddest part of this condition is that if we are unable to listen to our own hearts, it is impossible for us to truly empathize with and share the deep felt experiences of another?
Soulful listening is not simply an auditory process. It requires the full engagement of the body, mind, and spirit. Listening is an act of witnessing. It means observing without judgment or interpretation. To truly listen we must be fully present in the state of not-knowing. Only then, can we empathetically receive and truly acknowledge the value of the individual human experience.
There are three pre-requisites essential to soulful listening:
First, we must slow down. It is impossible to hear anything clearly or be fully engaged in the moment when rushing about. These days, with cell phones and text messaging, rarely do we stop and listen; we are always multi-tasking. Soulful listening requires the focused intention of the body, mind, and heart.
Second, we need to be quiet. This means not only to silence our speech but also our mind. The ego loves to talk, talk, talk. Our endless mind chatter insists upon what it knows and doesn’t allow any opening for learning. But our wiser self likes silence, it likes to listen and to be receptive. In order for us to be in tune with our inner knowing, we must still the mind and be quiet.
Third, it takes practice. Soulful listening is an art. It must be nurtured and exercised regularly. The times when it is needed the most are often chaotic, stressful, and rushed; times when it feels impossible to be still, quiet, and receptive. In those circumstances we are pressed to know the right answer, rather than asking the right questions and learning. Only by diligently practicing and developing our skills in soulful listening can we call upon it in our time of need.
Here are two activities to help develop the art of soulful listening:
Activity One: Take a pencil and paper and find yourself a quiet place to sit outside. Put a small circle in the center of your page; that represents you. Now listen carefully. Put a mark on your page for every sound you hear, noting the proximity and general direction. Try to identify the source of the sound; it may be the wind, a bird, an insect buzzing, or a plane overhead.
After about 10 minutes, put your pencil down and notice how you feel. What has changed in you if anything? What is your breathing like now, your heart rate, your mood? What have these few minutes of listening given you?
Activity Two: Our ability to hear our own hearts is greatly enhanced by learning to listen to others. Set the intention to soulfully listen to at least one person a day. It can be at work, at home, or even with someone you meet in passing. Stop and take the time to hear their words, feel the emotions behind their speech and mannerisms. Be curious; think about what you don’t know and would like to learn. Afterwards, reflect upon the experience. How was it different from your normal pattern? How did you feel honoring another person’s personal experience? What insight did you can about your own life? It’s surprising how much you learn about yourself when you soulfully listen to another.