“Forgetfulness of self is remembrance of God.” al-Bistami
Rare is our experience of being heard. Really deeply, wholly heard. Yet we remember those moments….when we were witnessed by another human, in our wholeness.
To listen to another is one of the highest gifts of respect we can ever bestow on ourselves and others. Priceless in magnitude. Foiled only by our need to have an answer, to be right, to be smart, to be heard and understood ourselves.
To listen to ourselves…to the call of our soul…is the highest gift we can give ourselves.
Listening is a complex art form, requiring senses that transcend the humble ear. The art of listening requires daily practice, ever and always moving towards the next phase of mastery.
In its most simple form, to listen utilises the sense of hearing.
Hearing is only the beginning of listening.
Be still, hear the sounds around you in the exterior world. The birds call, the wind in the tree’s, the sound of the keyboard as I type, the very low electronic hum of the computer.
Going deeper, into our interior, we might be able to hear our breath, our heartbeat, even our organs moving, our stomachs digesting, or our body signalling pain, stress or discomfort. If we really listen to our physical body, we will hear that it needs food, water, clothing, comfort, attention – even down to the type of food required now, or the level of attention needed to be directed towards something.
When we do this, we have transcended sound and tapped into wisdom that comes from years of paying attention to these finest subtleties. Few of us have paid enough attention, given enough time, to the hearing of the needs of our physical, emotional and spiritual bodies. (See this short article on physical intelligence)
By ignoring these, we have lost, or indeed may never have found, the most precious connection we have – hearing the call of our souls. Hence we have lost connection to our very selves.
In the world out there where our relationships are built, our work is done and our lives are lived, to work at improving listening skills is one of the most fundamental of all of the essential skills and is critical to clean communication.
Listening is a skill to be learned, honed, practised, critiqued and developed.
To listen is the dual of speaking, and together they make the whole of conversation. One cannot exist without the other. Yet our world spends more time speaking. Speaking to others. Speaking to ourselves, too often telling ourselves how bad we are at this, how we failed at that, how we could be better at this. Is this you?
We are afraid of silence, of stillness.
‘Conversation’ comes from Latin, and means the act of living with – “to turn about” with. Conversation requires two elements/people at minimum. Either the speaker and the person hearing as two entities, or the speaker and the listener within a single entity, or the speaker and the object.
In conversation with myself, oftentimes I am speaking to myself endlessly, without pause. Yet few times do I actually hear the words. Few times am I still long enough to hear the endless and nauseatingly petty interior self chatter. My self-talk lives so far below my conscious awareness, like the hum of the cars on a nearby freeway, or the sound of waves when living by the beach.
Self-awareness includes the ability to hear with acuity this ongoing hum of words and thought. To catch ourselves in the inner conversation, to eavesdrop on our deepest darkest secrets, and in so doing surface them into our awareness. This is the very act of becoming conscious. To listen to our inner self at the deepest level as our voice arises, changes and evolves.
Clean Communication requires the deepest hearing without compromise.
Ask yourself when you last felt someone heard you completely, transcending all their petty self-talk and issues, criticisms and judgments in their overall willingness simply to hear YOU?
Do you yearn for this level of conversation? For this type of communion?
How easy is it to get spun up in the busy-ness of life, in the one thousand and one things, and only partially listen to another…to ourselves?
When did you last extend this courtesy of really listening and hearing another? How often do you and your significant others listen to each other at this level?
How often do you listen to yourself with this level of attention? What would you hear if you did? Are you nervous about what you may hear? That your job leaves your soul cold, that your relationship needs intensive care, that your health is in dire straights? That you have lost connection with your spirit? That you are feeling lost and you have no idea how to find yourself?
Our highest act of service in listening is to give up self.
To give up the self who has a smart response, the always talking, answering, being right, being smarty pants self. The self who wants to fix, rescue, denigrate, interrupt, be heard.
When we do this in our conversation with self, we give up what we want to hear, what we think we should hear, and all of our judgments about what is right, wrong, good and bad in ourselves.
When I am eavesdropping on my soul, I need to get past my noisy, always chatting mind. Past the conditioned thoughts, past my righteousness and into the bedrock of truth. I need to access the part of me that is steady, all-wise, all-knowing, ever-present. And yes, what I hear could be very scary. I might have spent my life going right, and I may need to go left. I have jammed my own listening/hearing channels with distractions to prevent myself from hearing my own truth.
The truth, no matter how frightening, will prevail in the end, and I can either heed it now, or suffer the days, months, or years of denial. As the poet David Whyte says so eloquently ”Bankruptcy may be something your soul has been secretly engineering your entire life.” What we feel in the moment might break us, like bankruptcy, might, in the end, be the gift that brings us closer to our truth. In my ability to hear my truth I will find my liberation, my ability to be aligned with how I live my life and all that I am.
When I am in a conversation with another, listening until I no longer exist means to transcend myself in the conversation. To NOT have the conversation be about ME. I need to be able to get past all of my personal issues, my need to be right, liked, smart, good, nice. In order to do this, my focus needs to be entirely on you. My deepest intention and desire is to inhabit your world to the level of understanding and intimacy that will be felt profoundly by you.
You, the speaker, will know that you have been completely heard, completely understood, and in the process, given absolute grace as the speaker. I do not need to agree with you, however, you will know that I have heard you at the level of soul.
We when listen with a response on our tongue, when we listen from a field of judgment, when we listen to gather evidence of our righteousness, we are not listening to the other in the field of pure listening.
While it is impossible to listen without any form of bias and worldview, for we are indeed a collection of our own experience – we cannot know what we do not know – we can seek to listen with an intention to hear and understand the other in totality, all the while knowing we never fully will.
In my work with entrepreneurs and leaders, I generate the field where I am privileged to be present to words and feelings that might have been surfaced for the very first time. I witness Truths, callings, yearnings, questions… the unspoken.
The beauty of this…that when we speak the unspoken, when the unspoken is witnessed, everything shifts and moves towards the light. (The unspoken can be past trauma, shame, grief, loss, horror, victimisation, exploitation.) Listening to another, to the fullness of their humanity…this…this is to commune, to experience connection that transcends words.
Those who know this experience know its worth.
Those who practice this type of listening know intimacy.
*Listen till you no longer exist is Step One of Three of the Communication Formula. Trust your intuition and Speak the Truth are the other steps. All of these elements are covered in the Dare to Care program.