Mindful Listening as a Radical Act
Times of stress can lead to a sense of disconnection. During times of upheaval, like now with the government shutdown, everyone is feeling the effects, one way or another. I know I am. Given the world stress occurring. how can we find some unity and peace in the midst of all the unrest?
Yesterday a friend passed on to me this short video clip, "Jon Kabat-Zinn: Listening is an Act of Love," where Jon Kabat-Zinn reflects on how something as simple as mindful listening facilitates awareness of unity and wholeness, which is healing for us all. He equates it to a radical act of love that can become a form of compassion practice. Listening to it I felt myself relax and become optimistic about ways we can all contribute positively to healing the unrest. It can happen one conversation at a time — but in a way that doesn’t involve a single word we speak!
Can you recall the last time you had something to say and didn’t feel heard? Or didn’t hear someone else because you were rehearsing what you planned to say? It doesn’t feel good. And it’s the kind of thing that can lead to conflict and division, not to mention simple misunderstandings.To be present to another person (and ourselves,) letting go of agendas about what we say next, without judging what they are saying one way or another, is an act of caring. I can relate to what Jon says about personal pronouns, like “I, me and mine,” running the show and how much talking goes on without people really listening. When I think of how much talking has been part of the budget deliberations leading to the shut down, I’d say mindful listening could be quite revolutionary, indeed. (The video is only 6:50 long, worthy of a short inspiration break!)
Mindfulness Practice: Mindful Listening
Practice 1: during your meditation time, simply become present and aware of sounds, near and far, without labeling them or getting into a story about them. If a story-line is created by the mind, notice how quickly it becomes personal. As Jon suggests in the video- see if you can let go of any personal pronouns and simply listen, be present, and let go of figuring things out.
Practice 2: bring this practice into our everyday lives in the same way. When listening to someone speak, let yourself be present, hear, feel, let go of selfing. Notice what happens. This can be a profound way to find peace, spaciousness and a sense of connection even where we otherwise might be feeling distress.
(And on a humorous note but also on the theme of mindful listening, here’s a video clip of comedian Louis CK (note: crass language alert) talking with Conan O’Brian about why his kids won’t have cell phones and how he learned a personal lesson about the fear of being alone because of an experience he had while text messaging.)