Listening with Intention
Listening is the mindfulness focus word this week. It may seem like the easiest thing in the world and at first glance it appears that not much effort is required. Yet mindful listening is not a passive activity. Instead, we are actively participating but in a quiet and intentional way. Although there are a myriad of ways to approach listening as a mindfulness practice I have picked two to focus on for the week.
Listening to the World
What does it mean to listen to the world? Many meditation processes have an internal focus, but we can also direct our attention outward, focusing very intentionally on the sounds we are hearing. As we sit in meditation, we can just notice sounds arising (the same way thoughts bubble up) and label them if we want. Then we let them go.
This practice does not have to take place as formal meditation. Another accessible method is to start by turning off all the electronic devices and spend time being attuned to the sounds around us. This is a great outdoor practice.
One of my favorite walks is along Westerly Creek in Denver. Depending on the amount of precipitation, the creek can be running very tranquilly or quickly and noisily; but even on the slow days it is quietly audible. Walking and simply focusing my attention on the sound of running water is not only calming, it helps me tune into other sounds I might not be paying attention to. There are the distant train whistles, leaves rustling as squirrels run from my approaching Corgi, and ducks splashing in the creek. Listening with attention can be a deceptively easy mindfulness practice. Consciously giving our attention to each sound as it arises connects us to the here and now.
Listening to Each Other
I’ve been thinking a lot about the balance of talking and listening. There is a kind of a dance that takes place when a conversation is happening. In a good dance, all parties are participating fully with attention and interest. I’ve also noticed that the “good dance” doesn’t often happen. Many of us are distracted when we are in conversation with others and are more interested in the talking part of the relationship. Listening deeply to others is a mindfulness practice of connection. Listening deeply especially in situations where we think we know what others are going to say is an opportunity to remember that every moment is new and unscripted.
This will be an interesting and challenging week for me to take listening as my focus word. I will be facilitating the peer training for the Colorado Mental Wellness Network this week. With twelve students and a co-trainer in the room, there are always multiple things going on and sometimes a number of people talking. I’m curious to see how the week goes with a specific focus on listening deeply.
For more ideas on listening mindfully check out:
For more information on my Mindfulness focus word experiment click here.