Listening for New ImpressionsJan 22, 2020
I imagine the term listening evokes many things, from hearing sounds and being attentive to observation and noticing. For me, listening is not just with my ears. As a trained musician with very developed listening skills, it took work to expand my “spiritual” listening to encompass more than just ears. I am oriented to listening objectively at this point. My musical training helped and hindered that process.
The more I focused on listening, the more I heard, and the more I heard how I was not listening!
Through musical training, I learned to listen in a way I never had before. We all hear in certain ways, and I was so caught up in the technical aspect of doing the music that I could not hear the music objectively. I also naturally listened “reactively,” meaning I played something to the best of my ability or skill level and then unfortunately evaluated it after the fact. This is disastrous for a musician because while evaluating what was just heard, the present playing isn’t heard. I am then not there for what I am playing in the moment.
It was a constant judgment evaluation of what had just happened.
When my international career started to take off, I came to the realization that the way I was listening did not produce the music I wanted. I found myself as a professional questioning my very method of playing, listening, and hearing. I had to learn to simultaneously hear what I wanted to play as I was playing it. I needed an active and intentional role in the way I produced the music while simultaneously curbing the desire to evaluate good or bad.
After teaching classical piano for thirty years now, I have come to realize that there is a metamorphosis that occurs in a student when their listening comes alive. They get less caught up in the action of playing the piano and allow themselves to hear more objectively what they are actually doing. They become more musical, more expressive, more intentional and less machine-like. Listening to recordings of oneself helps to realize how we don’t hear very objectively, but we all must learn how to listen in the moment to create what we want from a place of spaciousness.
To be good musicians we must hear our own authentic nature and deliver it through the music.
I hope the musician analogy helps you see that objective listening takes effort and presence. After teaching meditation, presence and awareness for twenty-five years, I have noticed the same type of metamorphosis happen for my meditation students.
Listening is an act that can bring you to presence if you can make the right effort with it. To listen and then evaluate, label, or judge what you have just heard is not presence. The thinking picks it right up and begins doing its thing. You then cannot hear the next thing because your thinking is too busy evaluating. See my other article on listening: Doorways to Our Experiential World.
We often have readings at our meetings at the Awareness School and in our Practical Awareness Course for this very reason. The very point is to learn a new way of listening. It is a way of letting the words go in while resisting the urge to engage all of the preconceived notions, the random associations, and the triggered memories. There is an effort to keep that stuff at bay.
This kind of effort feels like a razor’s edge, a Zen effort-no effort, two things happening at the same time… a tightrope walk.
Again and again, you will fall into that other kind of listening where mental calculation and logic run the show. That is letting the thinking do what it does best, but it does nothing for a deeper understanding of oneself.
Your cleverness will not get you closer to freedom.
The effort to resist this tendency allows a new impression to enter.
The term new impression is loaded in this school. We spend a lot of time learning what impressions are and how they feed our consciousness. They come under the category of understanding something never before seen, and come from this new way of “listening.”
If you can do it with a reading, then you can do it in your own inner landscape.
To hear your inner chatter as something other than you is a very big deal. It provides you with a snapshot of your conditioning. It takes you outside of habit and “sleep.” To hear it, see it, catch it, is to be outside of your normal way of being. Impressions come from seeing and knowing and…listening from a place of objectivity.
When you hear it objectively, there is no judgment or evaluation. It is outside of that mode. You walk the tightrope of letting the words, the sounds, the energy of a voice whether it’s someone else’s or your own, come into you while resisting the need to deem it as good or bad, right or wrong, this or that. It just is.
Last week, one of our community members described an incredible example of listening. She held enough presence within herself to simply listen to her son’s rant without reacting. It was an extraordinary experience of “turning the other cheek” and something truly healed between them. It was a desperately needed point of connection.
You can learn to listen in a way that holds space for someone else. No agenda. No comeback. No being right. No warp speed assessments. Only the purity of witnessing that person’s energy, even if it is an angry rant aimed at you. It is holding presence and non-reaction within yourself so that a flow and understanding from The Mind (not the thinking) can occur. This clarity allows you to see what the other person may be experiencing instead of being caught up in your own story. This is a true act of love.
To hold space for oneself, in the same way, is also an act of love.
Witnessing what is.
But you have to learn how to do that. It takes practice in moments that are not big-ticket items.
This week there are many things you can do to see how poorly you actually listen. This is a prerequisite for learning to listen in the new way.
At the Awareness School, we often change something in our habitual nature to help us see that it is, in fact, habitual. This week change your tone of voice in certain circumstances. If you use a strong voice in a particular role, try using a more gentle tone. If you have a rather loud timbre in general, what does it feel like to change to a more soft-spoken tone. Do you feel less effective or even unheard?
Studying tone of voice along with some of the weekly curriculum is one thing we do in our Practical Awareness Course. Hearing our habitual voices both inner and outer reveals where we actually are. I hope you will consider joining the next course whether that is in Seattle or online from anywhere in the world. The next course starts late February.
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