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Are YOU listening?

Have you ever found yourself listening to something or someone and wondered or caught yourself asking, am I really listening to what is being communicated or am I simply participating in using what I am listening to, to speak to me differently?

Well, if one is to be honest and observant, there seems to be a great deal of subjectivity that buffers the listening process. The very notion of “me” or “you” listening is presumed to be the most important element to listening. However, on closer observation, that very notion may be the most elusive obstacle. How so? one may ask…

Let`s first set the parameters of listening, starting with; what is listening? why is listening needed? and how does one listen?

What is listening? Commonly understood, listening is a form of giving attention to a sound, speech or message that is received through the auditory senses.

Why listen? Biologically, it is part of the 5 senses which helps one orientate in one`s environment ultimately to fulfil the objective of survival. Socially, it is participated with for various purposes, such as; learning, understanding, communicating with others, efficient form of collaboration, all of which in some sense serves surviving oneself, each other and the environment better. Alternatively, listening could also perhaps be an instrument of allowing oneself to be available to what-is or the objective fact. More on this later.

How does one listen? This question must be inquired into through primarily two contexts. The first one is based on the notion that the listening requires an interpretative framework, for example, knowledge of a particular language that allows one to make sense of the sounds elucidated by the speech received and also a “good enough” knowledge of the language to detect the semantics, wit and other subtleties of the communication received. In addition, the framework may include the knowledge that detects the nuances of that sound to further enhance the interpretation which includes emotion, demand, emergency, casualness, sympathetic, etc. We often hear or read people who say; “I love listening to him/her because he/she is so soothing, humble or passionate or inspiring, etc” More often than not, great speakers are appealing not so much to the listening faculty of the audience but more so, to the interpretative framework of the audience. This could actually mean that in this context, we as the loving or critical audience, may be listening to “ourselves” exaggerated rather than just…listening! Especially so, since the interpretative faculty is predominantly mind-acquired and/or mind-interpreted past knowledge and not auditory listening per say. Perhaps…

The second context is based on the notion of simply allowing. The buffer for an interpretative framework is not needed. One may ask then, what if I do not understand the sounds, i.e; a foreign language? I can personally relate to this in my many travels around the world where I have often found myself in the company of people whom were in the midst of a conversation, completely incomprehensible to me. What I discovered though was how my “listening” allowed far more attention to every other input besides the sounds of their speech and strikingly enough on many such occasions, a resonance happening within me that woke up to some form of relating with the person that was far more “alive” than if I had just rested in the interpretation of words. It reminded me of a quote;

“Silence is a source of great strength.”
Lao Tzu

This is still debatable though in the example of the audience of the speaker that was being listened to, surely an understanding of the speaker was needed?…perhaps it is, however in this context, the interpretative buffer is not the conclusive determinant of the listening, rather it serves as the allowance regulator of the listening process.

Therefore, perhaps it is vital one becomes aware of what elements block this regulator from allowing complete availability to what is being listened to?
The “Allowance Regulator”

As per the illustration here:

listening for most, is a subjective activity. Subjective in the sense that it is coloured by the “me”. The “me” in this context is the interpretative framework or allowance regulator which regulates the degree of listening that is being allowed. The first element in this layer is safety. Am I safe listening to this? or Am I safe listening to this source/person/sound? The safety judgement is two-fold, one being a biological orientation that is intrinsic as part of the survival instinct of the species. Sounds that are of a certain frequency and intensity may trigger the autonomic nervous system to react involuntarily…for example, a loud bang/crash/scream. The interpretation of the biology to put it simply, is to determine if this would in any way threaten one’s capacity to survive. The other judgement is more mind-based, as a result of societal representations and knowledge derived from past experience either to oneself or others in ones environment of what is threatening, for example, a man who fits the media representation of what a terrorist looks like or for that matter a source that does not fit in the known parameters of one’s mind. A resulting judgement that one is not safe will close off all allowance of listening. On the other extreme, a judgement of complete safety, usually atypical in situations where preceding trust has been established, will open the allowance of listening. If one is between the two, then perhaps the best stance to hold would be the quality of curiosity, which can serve as a diffuser to any conclusive interpretation.

The second element that follows safety is consequences. What are the consequences of listening to this? This relates closely to safety as it is the risk calculator element of the mind. To one who has lived cultivating a mind that is used to only existing based on a reaction to an impact/”problem” in life, this is in essence, the calculator of the degree of impact or rather the degree in which one can react successfully to this impact or “problem”. Any sense of being overwhelmed, leads one back to safety which inevitably culminates in one being “not safe”. The only out here is to be aware of this and at best to acknowledge or consciously assume that what is being listened to, is not here to impact rather to awaken oneself.

The third element that follows consequences is change or the demand for change. This is an interesting layer as one has allowed oneself to listen to the point to whatever extent, that how one is, is not how one is supposed to be and the consequent demand for change is evident. The typical reaction to this, is most often “what I can do, or action to take?” and what level of pain/ movement from comfort zone does it entail? This reaction leads one back to consequences and subsequently, safety. In simply observing this, it makes sense perhaps our relationship with pain (notwithstanding physical pain). Any form of pain seems to be a reflection that how one is, is not how one is supposed to be and that a transformation or change is demanded. However, contemplating or taking an action that is orientated from the pain, is actually an escape from the demand essentially. Perhaps the ego of humanity at large, in celebrating how much we have “done” or action we have taken, is the glorification of the success of escape from an actual demand that is existent…perhaps…

The last element of the allowance regulator, is the most critical as its also the one we are most conscious about in the listening process, which is the judgement based on capacity for use/exploitation or how this is right for me/ will serve in being right for me? The resulting output of this layer is also what leads us to conscious judgement of whether we agree or disagree with the source of what is being listened to. What needs to be observed is that the nature of the cultivated mind, is value-driven. The attributes of comparison, worth, calculation, strategy is highly resonant with a value-derivation of sorts. Hence if the mind is the filter of subjectivity receiving what is listened to, this layer is arguably the most powerful after safety. The derivation of a positive value, will drive the demand for change and embracing of pain, which in turn will drive one to strategise for the consequences which subsequently will find the safety within it. If the justification of value is not substantial enough, a judgement in disagreement or indifference would ensue, which would lead to shutting down of the listening process. (Funny example: “Talk to the Hand!”) In conclusion, if this element of judgement rules, the entire listening process would have been regulated to serve what was pre-conditionally right about oneself and not allow what was there as oneself, known or unknown to oneself, from awakening. Being ready to “lose” would be a the awareness one best holds oneself with the other, and simply being in awe and curiosity without an investment into the mind of whats in it for me, to allow the listening through.

Perhaps this could explain to a large extent what happens in relationships, personal and organisational, when a breakdown, conflicts or “wrong” outcomes manifest? Perhaps the overarching presence of the mind/past knowing as “me” is the allowance regulator? If so, one must then ask if this subjectivity was removed, why listen?

In the first para, we framed the question of “why listen?” as one of the contextual parameters. In there, it was stated alternative to the biological predisposition of listening for survival, that there could exist the possibility of listening being an instrument of allowing oneself to be available to what-is or the objective/choiceless fact. Subsequently when the what-is, is lived, the what can be or a possibility is naturally awakened and lived. This proposition though, assumes two principles of rightness are subscribed to, the first, that one holds oneself to a consciousness of more than just survival. The second being, that one holds oneself to the consciousness that one is an emerging entity and that life, which includes what is being listened to, is there for the “more” of oneself to emerge. The overarching key being, the capacity to be in complete allowing.

Perhaps a poignant reflection to pay attention to, rather than ask how much have I really listened to? one should ask, how much have I allowed myself to listen to? Perhaps this holds the difference between one as the presence of the mind, and the other, one as the presence of the being, as a rightness living.

Grateful at the feet of love for waking this reflection in this disciple.🙏🏽❤️

Fri, 14 December 18 : 10:12 : Nirvan Samadhi

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