4 ways to practice mindful listening
Listening has been a topic in my life lately.
I’ve been thinking about it & writing about it for a while.
Yesterday I had an upsetting, but genuine & clarifying, experience with my boss.
Listening was ultimately the root issue.
We both felt the same way, but differently. Like two sides of the same coin.
Not listened to.
The initial blowup opened the way to an honest, caring conversation.
That connection happened because we both really listened to each other.
I know I was fully hearing him & I hope he feels heard & understood.
I know I do.
Although I wish I didn’t reveal so much emotion, I’m also glad it all happened.
Even the parts I would change. Because those parts, the imperfect parts, are perfectly authentic.
At first I was resistant to being told I wasn’t listening…. especially when I’ve been working so hard on improving that life skill!
But, after reflecting, I can definitely see his side.
I was “listening” but not the way I’ve been ever since our discussion.
It’s like walking outside in the morning & being preoccupied with your thoughts & sort of hearing the birds.
Versus quieting your mind & listening, with full attention, to all the different songs the birds are singing.
It’s like being in two different worlds.
Listening is one of my favorite awareness practices.
Listening, really listening, connects you with others, brings you to the present moment & lets you hear yourself think.
So, how do you practice really, actively, listening?
Here are some of my favorite ways.
And for all of these examples, be mindful of your thoughts. They will always come. Notice when they do & then re-focus your attention.
- When you’re outside, listen to the sounds around you – the wind rustling the leaves, traffic, your footsteps.
Pick one & listen. Then pick another, & listen.
- Think of a sound you love. I adore hearing my dog, Raven, snoring & stirring in her sleep.
Maybe for you, it’s your child laughing or the rain falling.
When you hear that sound, listen like you’ll never hear it again. And listen with pure enjoyment.
- When you’re talking to another, notice when you’re judging, assuming, interrupting or zoning out.
Stop. Re-focus your attention to listening to the other person.
- Use your body to ground yourself out of thinking & into listening to yourself think.
Place your attention on your breathing. Is it shallow, rapid, slow, deep?
Is your jaw clenched? Loosen it.
Are your shoulders tense? Relax them.
Is your back slouched? Straighten it.
How are your feet & hands placed?
When you create enough space between yourself & your thoughts, you can see that you’re not your thoughts.
You can feel that you’re always free to choose them, or take a break from them.
But you have to be aware to choose. Otherwise, your undercurrent, your current habit of thought, is thinking for you.
Awareness is focused attention.
Focusing your attention is a skill, that, like any skill, improves with practice. The more you shift into awareness & deliberately focus your attention, the better & more frequently you do it.
Listening is one, really enjoyable, way to practice focusing your attention.
And it’s something you can make a part of almost everything you do, every day.
xo ~ Katie