To Truly Listen

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Deep, true listening is the core of spiritual practice. And it's at the core of a life well lived too.

The extent to which we are capable of intimacy--with ourselves, life, and others--is dependent upon the depth, sincerity, and discernment of our listening. A good relationship depends on it. A meaningful life depends on it. A rich, yummy, fulfilling experience depends on it too. And a prosperous business. And a beautiful day. And a continuously inspired heart. And so much magical more.

Yes, listening is essential, yet so few of us do it well. Too often, in the presence of another's sharing, rather than fully absorbing each word and being totally available to perceive & receive the unseen energies and unspoken needs, we instead: Try to capture the responses that pop into our head. Quickly react and interpret what we hear. Breathe very little. Scan our judgments. Silently defend against the words. Or, we're hearing what's being said while simultaneously reviewing an inventory of thoughts: what we will eat for dinner, who we need to call back, how we're feeling, that, this, and oh yeah--that too, and so on.

We don't listen well for two main reasons: 1. We don't know how and 2. Because truly listening can be scary. To truly listen can be scary because it means we need to let go of our defenses and great responses when they come to our mind--risking forgetting them entirely--and instead, conjure up our deepest attention and then, completely devote it to taking in another human being, their vulnerability, their experience. From there, we risk being truly, deeply touched by them; we risk our perspective changing; we risk responding contrary to our beliefs, our ideas about ourselves, positions we have already taken; and we take the biggest risk of all: that of being vulnerable ourselves.

Rather than being an area where we hesitate, distract,  and react, when we listen well we discover a depth of connection unavailable in other waters. We discover the innocence at the heart of every moment and every interaction. We find out just how benevolent life and the people in it can be. Yes: Listening well is an essential path for any sincere student of life, for anyone who wishes to juice this experience for all that it is worth.

As each one of us grows, so do the ones around us. May our devotion to listening ever-more clearly and responding ever-more fully send loving ripples to the precious world we live in, that is so thirsty for our kindness, sensitivity, and sincerity.