"The most basic of human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them." Ralph Nichols, the Father of Listening.
Listening To Our Body
One dimension of listening mindfully should be the practice of shutting off our attention to the external world and its noise frequencies and tuning into our own body. Yes, if we close our eyes, and take a few deep breaths, and then dive into our own body, scan it from head to toe, and if we can gradually relax and calm down and be a quiet witness, we may be blessed to listen to the intelligent communications of our own unique physical universe. Through this practice we can know what exactly our body needs; what food, what rest, what company, what thoughts, what emotions, and what kind of life! This will be our true understanding; our very cellular structure will undergo a thorough awakening and transformation, first through detoxification and then through higher energy vibrations. The whole of it will start the day we stop, pause, and turn our gaze to our own inner body, which is our physical stuff that has the intelligence of the whole universe in it.
Don’t forget whatever is there in the universe, is there in our body.
Why our body! Even one of the trillions of cells of our body is a macrocosm in itself. It is like an ocean in a drop. It is holographic. Isn’t it incredible? Oh! How much time we waste focusing outside looking for fun!! Listening to the intelligence of our own body can open a new horizon, a new world to us; a world we have never seen before!!
Listening to Our Mind
As long as we listen to the conversations of our mind we are restless. Our practice of meditation and mindfulness should take us gradually into state of awareness of our inner conversation, our self-talk. When we are thinking, don’t believe there is no one listening; the whole universe listens to our self-talk. The more we trust that the universe listens to us the more we can change our inner conversations and start believing that we can make ourselves happy and live our own higher goals. Let our self-talk be one of acceptance of and affirmation of the reality that the universe listens to us, understands us and loves us as we are!
Listening to Our Spirit
The day we are no longer led by the chattering mind, and start listening to the whispers of our spirit, we transcend the world of misery and are in perennial bliss.
In our Hindu Vedic tradition one the most difficult disciplines to learn by a seeker (student) is to listen deeply with an open heart and mind, chew the essence, and then metabolize it into pure light of spiritual effulgence.
The first part of listening from the point of view of our Hindu tradition is called Shravana, which is listening to the Guru or God. Then comes Mañana, or contemplation, which is dwelling on the deeper significance of the words the Guru or God spoke. Then we have Nididhyasana, or meditation, meditating on the significance of the essence of what Guru or God says. This leads to Moksha, or complete liberation.
So, here too, the most difficult thing is the first one, listening. Shravana is listening where our mind is like a clean slate. There is no blah-blah inside or background noise!! Then it registers and leads to the next two stages.
As we start to listen to our spirit within, we have flashes of insight. These flashes have much potential to transform our lives. But they are just seeds that need to sprout and be nourished. Without our time and attention, the importance of these flashes will sift to the bottom of our consciousness in the flood of our day-to-day lives. Therefore we need to chew on them, so they can be fully digested, and completely assimilated. Then, and only then, can they be truly understood and practiced.
Listening to Others
It is only after we have truly listened to our bodies, calmed the chatter in our minds and opened the channel to universal wisdom and love that we can begin to listen to others with true understanding. Most relationships suffer due to impatient communication that comes from lack of mindful listening. With all our material abundance we are moving away from each other, creating voids. The worst symptom is there is no one we can trust who can listen to us non-judgmentally. This is the real threat.
What we give to the universe (to others) comes back to us. The universe is continually reciprocating our reactions and responses. The more alert and wakeful we are to how good a listener we are, what thoughts we are thinking and what we in turn say, the better for us. Like an arrow leaving the bow can't be taken back, so also words spoken can't be taken back. We must first listen and then speak from our heart and soul, for judgments come from the mind; love and compassion flow from our heart, and empathy from our spirit. Relax, chill, and allow the mind to pause, and then listen to the silence of the spirit within. Then true understanding happens within and without!
Shuddhaanandaa Brahmachari (India): Globally acclaimed spiritual and inspirational speaker, author, and visionary social advocate; founded Lokenath Divine Life Mission, 1985, which serves thousands of poverty-stricken individuals in India. Received Lifetime Achievement Award, House of Lords, UK, 2015.