Listen…deeply. We spend so much of our time talking, planning, writing in a host of forms, and thinking of what we will say to others’ communication that we miss much of what is happening here and now. Sound is something to fill the stillness that some have come to interpret as a source of boredom. Losing our ability to listen, or worse, never developing it, deprive us of one of the most important opportunities of our lives.

I remember reading somewhere of three crucial ways of listening. One is listening to other people. There is much to be  learned from what our fellow human beings have to say. In some cases, there is wisdom to be gleaned whether it comes from an elder who is sharing lessons gained from experience or the mouths of babes, as they say, who can teach us beyond the depth of their shallow understanding. There’s more to this, though, than just hearing words and gathering knowledge from them. We can gain insight into another person’s psyche from the subtext of their message through the wording, intonation, emotional content, their eyes and overall body language. Listening isn’t just about hearing, after all. There can be numerous senses involved, including listening with the heart. What does that mean? I’m referring to our intuition, a sixth sense if you will. More about that later. For now, let’s just focus on what others are saying. This is not just beneficial from the standpoint of soaking up information. It’s also about what it does for the person speaking. What a special feeling it is when you sense a person is truly interested in what you’re saying and not just engaging in clever conversation or waiting for their chance to regale you with their opinions. Even if someone is interested, but can’t wait to give advice or information on how they handled a similar situation, there is a letdown for the troubled when the listener tosses in their views. There’s a good deal of therapy in simply listening to a person who is hurting. Asking them questions that help them examine different sides of their issues can help as well.

Secondly, listening to the messages of the exterior world can be highly illuminating. That probably sounds more esoteric than it is in practice. One of the most common ways of doing this is just enjoying nature. Sitting still outside brings us unexpected delights we wouldn’t otherwise notice. My meditation routine is usually done in a quiet room, but recently I was sort of forced by circumstance to take it out to our patio. While sitting there with eyes closed, I heard passing low overhead the wings of a larger bird–probably a crow. The movement of air by the strong wings slicing through was almost thrilling. I know some crows nest in a tall palm tree within sight of our house, but I had not been aware they were flying so near the ground over our yard. Virtually endless are the sounds that tell a story of our immediate environment. The buzzing bees, the chirping birds and the majestic winds are just a few. Outside the realm of nature, we hear the sounds of traffic, aircraft, chimes, slamming doors and hammering. All recite an account of the rhythms of life. How do they affect us emotionally and what can we learn from them?

The third form of listening is being attentive to the truth that lies within, awaiting discovery. There is virtual treasure to be found by opening our minds and hearts to the untapped reservoirs of infinite intelligence in and around us. One way I use this is to mentally formulate a question or frame a problem that needs a solution, then clear my mind so as to be receptive to an answer. I have found that it can bubble to the surface without any struggle. It’s a natural process. Following is a “Meditation for self-help,” as written by Ernest Holmes, author of The Science of Mind…A Philosophy, A Faith, A Way of Life. This is an affirmation, offered up as a prayer, which I perceive as basically the same entity. It’s titled, I Listen.

I will listen for Thy voice, Inner Presence.

                                                                It will guide me and acquaint me with all knowledge.

Thy voice is sweet and tender; it is always kind and gentle.

O Lover of my Soul, how I adore Thee! How I love Thee!

How I love Thy voice; it thrills me with gladness and joy.

It fills me with peace and calm, and it soothes me.

It quiets me and gives me wonderful rest.

I listen, O Divine Speaker, I listen to Thee alone.

I listen for Thy voice.

May we empower ourselves and those in our lives with the gift of sincere listening.