On Listening

Listening isn't just an act, is a mindset. We're used to listening to music or to other people, but you can listen to anything. You can listen to yourself, to the world, and even to silence. Listening to silence is called meditation.

The essence of listening is simply not talking. Not just talking out loud, but even talking to yourself. When you listen to a person and talk at the same time, whether judging or figuring out what's wrong with what they're saying, you can really only hear yourself. The best you can hope for is to get a version of the truth that's mixed up with your preconceptions and ideas. That's not very good.

When you listen you get a new perspective. In the same way that you can view a sculpture from different vantage points, you can look at a situation, or more generally, reality, from different perspectives and see new things. In the case of listening, the new perspective doesn't come from getting something new, but subtracting. Subtracting your preconceptions and usual dialogue about a problem or situation. Listening makes room for me insights into a situation, another person, and often, yourself.

You don't just listen with your ears; you listen with your whole body. You listen with questions rather than answers. With silence rather than speech. With gentleness rather than cynicism. When you listen you find room to accept and even appreciate and the capacity to experience love and forgiveness without any pretensions.