The Art of Listening

Listening is very different from hearing.  Hearing is passive and is done with the ears.  Listening is active and is done with the heart.  

I was reminded of this beautiful lesson this past weekend as I attended the Temple booth at Earth Day.  As many people dropped by to say hello and to inquire as to what Temple is all about, they also shared some of their stories of illness and pain.  

Nothing is broken.  There are simply opportunities for us to learn to connect more deeply with ourselves.  

It was super tempting for me to drop into Mr. Fixer mode and go about hearing these stories of suffering and immediately attempt to offer solutions on how to fix them.  The funny thing is I don’t actually believe that anyone is broken.  I truly see the challenges someone is facing with their health as a teaching to show them where they are disconnected form their experience of themselves.  

Pain is a teacher!  It is there to let us know that we are out of balance.  

The trap I fell into was in ending my listening process with hearing and interpretation.  I neglected to bring my heart into the process and feel what was being spoken.  To me, listening is when I drop my judgment of right or wrong and allow for what is being spoken to be fully heard – with my mind and my heart.  

When I only hear with my mind I keep my emotions protected and I’m unable to empathize.  Instead of connecting with the person sharing, I pity them in their suffering and want to help change them into something ‘better’ – something more worthy of existence.  

Suffering has great purpose.  

I often hear the desire of compassionate people to alleviate the suffering of all beings.  I understand that this sentiment comes from a place of genuine love.  When I think of having all of my suffering taken from me though, I wonder if I would actually appreciate it.  

I have learned so much from my suffering.  

Consider all of the moments in your life that you experienced some form of pain, illness, suffering or trauma.  Of the ones that no longer have a sting in them, did they offer you any wisdom?  The one’s that continue to have a sting in them, are they teaching you anything presently?  I will bet my life on it that they are!  All of these experiences may well be defining of the quality of person that you are and more appropriately, who you are becoming.  

Listen deeply to your own suffering.  There are riches there that will bless your life.  

Suffering to me is simply noise in my experience that hasn’t yet found coherence.  Pain is noise in the body that awaits balance.  Anger is noise in the heart that awaits clearing.  Anxiety is noise in the mind that awaits presence.  All noise requires listening to bring it back into balance. 

Noise to me is both sound and information that has not been put in it proper order.  It is chaotic and disturbing (read: suffering).  When we apply the skill of deep listening to this noise, whether it’s internal noise of the body, the mind, the emotions or the expressed words of another’s pain, we can help bring coherence to it (read: peace).  

Meditation is the process of stilling the mind.  It is achieved through listening to the mind with the heart. 

What if it’s true that all healing modalities are simply different ways to listen to the body?  What if the greatest healers are simply the one’s that are most able to listen to their clients with their mind connected to their heart?  

I have heard that if you find yourself going through hell, do not stop… keep going!  I imagine hell is a very noisy place, chaotic and fraught with suffering.  Our lives are so noisy.  We have so much noise in our minds, in our environment and in our hearts.  I invite all of us to start listening to the noise.  To find the wisdom within it rather than avoiding it.  To find our way through that doorway into a deeper peace and harmony.