Wherever you are right now, whatever you were doing before you read these first words, I invite you to pause. Turn off any background distractions, such as music or television. Find a quiet space alone if you are not already there. And just begin to listen. Listen fully, and without judgement.
What sounds do you hear in your immediate environment? Take time to take them in.
What sounds do you hear just beyond your immediate environment? Go slowly here as well.
You will notice that listening consciously has drawn your awareness back into the present moment. In other words, listening is a doorway into the now.
Now ask yourself this question: “Do I consider myself to be a ‘good’ listener?” And then, perhaps, “what constitutes a ‘good’ listener?”
It is my observation that the majority of people do not listen well. And even fewer listen deeply.
What is deep listening?
Deep listening is an art, meaning that it originates from somewhere sacred beyond the thinking mind and requires intention, presence, and practice. When you listen deeply, you listen not just with your ears, but with your heart and your entire being. You listen with love, compassion, and non-judgment without expectation. You listen as if this moment is all there is, because this moment is all there is.
Have you ever had the experience of this quality of interaction? If so, you will recognize it immediately as distinct, more meaningful and more fulfilling than the average communion. Deep listening is an experience of love and grace for both persons. It has the power to heal and change us. It has the power to transform our relationships. And it is my knowing that when practiced consistently, it has the power to transform our lives.
How to practice deep listening
The next time you have an interaction with one of your beloveds, you may practice this: Eliminate any unnecessary distractions in the background, such as TV. Set the intention in your heart to listen deeply. Keep your body language open and face them directly. Look deeply into their eyes, as though you are gazing into their very soul. Imagine that you are listening from your heart center. And imagine that you are listening to them for the very first time in your life.
Offer no advice or commentary, but reflect back to them what you have heard and ask them if you are hearing them fully. Listen for the feelings behind the words and ask them if you are correctly understanding how they’re feeling. If it’s appropriate and supportive, you may use touch – such as placing your hand on theirs or touching their arm or shoulder – to affirm your presence and your loving care.
When you practice this quality of listening, you invite your beloved – whether it is your partner, your child, your relative, or your friend – to unfold in your spacious, loving presence. There is no greater gift you can give than this. Your deep listening alone, without saying much at all, will leave them feeling re-connected, resolved, loved, and healed. Your experience as the listener will be just as powerful, restorative and expansive.
Deep listening as a parent
If you are a parent, deep listening is one of the most valuable skills you can learn. It is my knowing as a family therapist that almost all behavioral issues that children exhibit stem from unmet emotional needs. One of the most effective ways to ensure that your child’s emotional needs are nurtured is through deep listening.
When you set an intention to practice deep listening with your child as much as possible, they will feel your interest in them. They will sense your unconditional loving, and they will naturally want to share their feelings, desires and concerns with you. When you engage with them with this quality of loving presence, they will feel that their needs for love and attention have been met, even if the quantity of time spent is shorter; because the quality of time spent has been so rich. If you have been facing behavioural challenges with your child in the past, I guarantee you will experience some degree of natural resolution and increased harmony from the integration of deep listening. In other words, the effort you apply in cultivating deep listening with your child will come back to you in the form of a deepened relationship with your little one, and greater peace and oneness in the home. And as you model deep listening to your children, you plant the seed for a powerful skill and way of being that will support them for the rest of their lives.
You need not reserve deep listening for interactions of measured significance. It is my feeling that every interaction with another sacred being, however small or great, is equally precious. So I invite you to practice your skills of deep listening in even the most fleeting engagement, such as buying something at the grocery store. When you go through the checkout line to pay, give the dear soul before you all your attention. Look them deeply in the eyes. Listen to them and them alone. Speak to them with loving kindness. Express your gratitude. And you will discover that even the briefest exchange can be one of loving grace for both of you.
Deep listening to your own heart
There is another form of deep listening that I want to share with you, and that is listening deeply to your own heart. You have heard it said before the relationship you cultivate with yourself is the most important one of all. And this begins with deep listening.
I have a morning practice that is powerful to this end, and I invite you to try it as well. When you first wake up in the morning, after you go to the bathroom but before you begin your day and engage with your technology, spend just three minutes in solitude and silence. Ask yourself this question: “What does my heart long for most right now?” And then just listen deeply to the whisper of your heart. If, for example, you hear, “balance is what I long for more than anything”, you may then release this heartfelt desire into the universe. Then say it in the form of an affirmation three times: “I am in balance. I am in balance. I am in balance.”
Carve out time for silence with yourself throughout the day, even if it’s just a few minutes here and there. Sit in silence and just breathe into your heart center. Take a quiet walk in nature. Meditate. Journal. And if there is a matter that requires resolution, take time in silence to listen deeply to your inner voice. I often say to my clients, “In the silence is where you will meet yourself.”
Now, I invite you once again to quiet your mind and return to the practice of listening to the sounds in your immediate environment. What do you hear? Has the quality of this experience changed at all since you learned a little about deep listening? What sounds do you hear in the space beyond your immediate environment?
Now, from this place of calm presence, I invite you to repeat this affirmation in the quietness of your own heart: “I listen deeply to myself, to my beloveds, and to every sacred soul I meet.” Write this affirmation down, place it somewhere special, and repeat it every day for the next 10 days.
My heartfelt blessings follow you as you watch your life begin to transform.