Warning - Silence Ahead

"The only thing that happens abruptly in nature is disaster."  (Safety tip from personal journal.)

Living at the periphery of the calamitous din of modern life, I often wonder if anyone has time to listen anymore? There are lots of jokes about it, but really, when was the last time you listened to anything? Actually took in what was going on around you with out reacting, commenting, judging, moving or responding?

Ever try "just listening" to what is in this moment?

It is harder than it seems for lots of reasons. For example,listening doesn't look like much from the outside. So if someone asks about your day, it might be hard to relate.

Try playing it out. "Hi honey, how was your day?" "Wow, I was just slammed listening today." Endure the quizzical look and having not much to report, unless you begin telling a story about what you think you heard.

This is called gossiping - which isn't really listening - but gathering up your judgements while someone else is talking into a narrative that you can repeat later to someone else.

Here's another tough one. If you do manage to be silent and listen, how do you know what you heard? And if you're action oriented, you might be listening for cues to turn what you've heard into something to do.

Maybe listening leads to doing? You know what you heard because you can see what you did. This is along the Indiana Jones continuum, or life is a mystery that needs solving and you know just the detective to do something about it.

Just listening is challenging enough, but especially if you don't think about what to do with what you're hearing. Could be interesting to try listening today for a few minutes and not doing anything about it.

Ever been accused of being listening deficit? No matter what you're hearing, you're actually thinking about what to say next? This one appears in marital discord all the time and may cost you dearly in alimony and child support. Better to nod and deploy the "yes dear" defense. Not being heard is a sad story, and in the absence of compassion, nodding often suffices.

This assumes that you're in the company of others. What if you're alone?

Think listening would be easier?

Not a chance. Turns out that listening to nothing in particular is even more difficult than listening to someone's story.

Here's a quick listen from this morning. The slow humming of the monitor, the clicking of the keys, the traffic going by, my cat chewing the plants. Hey, stop chewing the plants! Get up, wrestle cat away from the mangled bamboo. What was that, a few seconds?  The minute I stop doing and listen, I react to whatever I heard and go back to doing.

Imagine that it's easier to listen if you eliminate noises around you? Silent meditation anyone?

This is like the Olympics of listening practices and not for the novice listener. If you're interested, here's the description of  listening meditation. It's a direct path to transformation according to the practitioners, but sales brochures never tell the whole story.

If you ever sit silently for ten days, you'll know what I mean. It turns out that listening to nothing is tantamount to pushing every monkey-mind button at once.

You find out that you're reacting, responding, resisting, planning, commenting, judging and moving, when you're listening to absolutely nothing.

When you remove outside stimuli, the true source of the cacophonous din is revealed.

Jumping, jiving, story telling, connecting an undulating quilt of ephemeral diaphanous dots, the monkey mind is always speaking directly to you.

And if you enjoy fiction and drama, wait until the monkey mind is the only thing you hear.

There's an easier way though. Believe me. Start very slowly. One moment at a time. Practice in little doses. Try listening to someone today. Even for just a few minutes. Without judging, commenting or doing.

If you're feeling adventurous, consider being silent for a moment or two and listen to the sound of your own breathing, your heart moving, skin warming or cooling.

And if you're in the mood for the big roller coaster, take the leap into listening meditation.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

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