Tag - Mindful Listening

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Paige Baggett-Riggins, a self-proclaimed "Information Junkie," is addicted to the exploration of all modalities that improve our mind, body and spirit. She relies on a daily mindfulness practice to control her "speed eating" habit and the constant urge to add more to her ever increasing book "situation."

Can listening be a radical act?

Listening be a radical act

When we think we already know what there is to hear, we are simply moving a little too fast to really listen That’s where meditation comes in.

Pain and suffering may often seem to be calling us to jump in and fix things, but perhaps they are asking us first to be still enough to hear what can really help, what can truly get to the cause of this suffering, and what will not only eliminate it now but prevent it from returning. So, before we act, we need to listen. When we do become quiet enough and “listen up,” the way opens, and we see the possibilities for action.

We give very little attention to learning to listen, learning to really hear another person or situation. Yet think back to the moments with other people when our hearts were engaged and we felt fed by being together. In those moments, weren’t we hearing one another? In times like those, when we have listened to and heard one another, we have felt life arising from a shared perspective.

Why do we miss new opportunities?

Each situation, each moment of life, is new. We and this other person or group of people have never been here before. Oh, we’ve been in moments like it, but the present moment is new even if we have performed the same action with the same person hundreds of times before. Of course, it’s easy to think, “Well, it’s just like the last time, so I’ll do what I did last time,” and then not have to listen to the new moment. But if we do that, our lives become boring replications of what we have always done before, and we miss the possibilities of surprise, of new and more creative solutions, of mystery.

For our often humdrum lives to retain the taste of living truth, we have to listen freshly again and again.

For our often humdrum lives to retain the taste of living truth, we have to listen freshly again and again. A human interaction includes both the uniqueness of each being and the unity of the two, which transcends separateness. For our minds to take such a subtle process and trivialize it to “just this again” or “nothing but that” is to reduce us to automatons, to objects for one another. And for action to be compassionate, we need to eliminate the idea of an object, we need to be here together doing exactly what needs to be done in the simplest way we can. We need to listen.

How mindful listening leads to real change

When we begin to act by listening, the rest follows naturally. It’s not so easy, of course, it requires us to give up preconceived ideas, judgments, and desires in order to allow space to hear what is being said. True listening requires deep respect and a genuine curiosity about situations as well as a willingness just to be there and share stories. Listening opens the space and allows us to hear what needs to be done at that moment. It also allows us to hear when it is better not to act, which is sometimes a hard message to receive.

Listening to others clearly opens the way to understanding the helping situation. But listening to others requires quieting some of the voices that already exist within us.

There are many people and organizations teaching techniques for clear active listening and appreciating the role of listening in the process of change. One such group is Rural Southern Voice for Peace, which has developed The Listening Project, a process by which members of grass-roots groups go door to door or too familiar gathering places as they are beginning a project. They ask “open-ended questions in a non-judgmental but challenging way that encourages people to share their deepest thoughts” about the area of the group’s concern. They report that “remarkable things happen as this process unfolds: Activists empathize with former ‘opponents,’ replacing negative stereotypes with understanding and concern; barriers are overcome as both sides experience common ground and see each other as human beings with deeply held hopes and fears. People being surveyed feel affirmed, sensing that what the listeners really want is to know their opinions; some start to change their opinions as they explore, often for the first time, their deeper feelings about social problems.”

Listening to others clearly opens the way to understanding the helping situation. But listening to others requires quieting some of the voices that already exist within us. When this happens, there is space not only for the voices of others but for our own truest voice. And, as Alice Walker has said, “The inner voice can be very scary sometimes. You listen, and then you go ‘Do what?’ I don’t wanna do that! But you still have to pay attention to it.”

How meditation helps us listen to others

We need to take time to quiet down and listen to ourselves with attention not only in the midst of action but when we are alone, walking in the woods, making tea, praying in church, fishing in a stream, or sitting in meditation. A simple breath meditation can be helpful because it returns us to a basic connection with the world. As we breathe in and out and bring our awareness gently to our breath, we are experiencing the world coming into us and ourselves going back out into the world. We are reminded, in a simple physical way, that we are not separate from the world but continually interacting with it in the very makeup of our being.

When we listen for the truth of a moment, we know better what to do and what not to do, when to act and when not to act.

We need to listen fully. It’s the basis of all compassionate action. Such full listening helps us hear who is calling and what we can do in response. When we listen for the truth of a moment, we know better what to do and what not to do, when to act and when not to act. We hear that we are all here together, and we are all we’ve got.

This article was adapted from Compassion in Action: Setting Out on the Path of Service by Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush

Source: Why Listening is the Most Radical Act – Mindful

What did you say?” The Practice of Mindful Listening

Mindful Listening

What did you say?” — The Practice of Mindful Listening

Lynn Rossy, Ph.D.

How often have you found yourself in a conversation at lunch or dinner; sitting in a meeting at work; or talking to a friend or partner and realize you have no idea what was just said? If you are anything like the average person, it happens every day (probably more times than you are willing to admit). You might even be interested in what’s being said but your mind has carried you off on one of its wanderings into the past or future, to something that’s bothering you, or to your to-do list.

Our minds are often scattered and unruly, which is why the practice of mindfulness can be so important in meaningful, attentive conversation. You have to be present in order to listen and take in what is being said. You also have to be listening without your own agenda and without being busy formulating what you will say next.

Try this simple Mindful Listening Practice:

Mindfulness the act of being fully present in each moment with kindness and without judgment is a wonderful skill to practice when you are in any situation that requires listening. In any conversation, you can use the person that’s speaking as your “object of mindfulness.” Pay full attention to what he or she is saying. When your mind wanders away from what is being said, immediately and without judgment bring yourself back to the words of the person speaking. Repeat those instructions as many times as necessary. You will eventually strengthen your mental musculature to stay more focused and aware.

There are valuable personal rewards for practicing mindful listening.

Being listened to is so much like being loved that most people don’t know the difference. (For the life of me I can’t find the person’s name that said this. My apologies). I had a wife of someone whom I had taught mindful listening to years ago come up to me at a local restaurant. She introduced herself and told me that the mindful listening exercise her husband had learned in my class had saved their marriage. Try it for yourself and see what happens. I have a potentially difficult conversation coming up tonight and I have determined to listen to everything the other person wants to say before I say anything. When you give someone the opportunity to get everything out of their system, they are much more willing to listen to what you have to say.

There are valuable Conscious Business rewards for practicing mindful listening. Your colleagues will be more collaborative because everybody’s opinions get heard. It will take less time to complete your work because you have listened to what needs to be done. If you are anyone’s boss, listening to your employees will make them feel appreciated. When employees feel appreciated, research indicates they are happier and more productive at work. When I saw clients in individual therapy, I was constantly practicing mindful listening. I mean, really, there is nothing worse than having your therapist ask you, “what did you say?”

The promise of listening:

We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that something deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit. ~e.e. cummings

Lynn Rossy, Ph.D. is a health psychologist specializing in mindfulness-based interventions. She developed a ten-week, empirically validated Eat for Life class that teaches people to eat mindfully and intuitively, love their bodies, and find deeper meaning in their lives.  Her book, The Mindfulness-Based Eating Solution, is based on the concepts in her program. Lynn is a long-time practitioner of mindfulness meditation and Kripalu yoga.