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The Gift of Listening

The Gift of Listening

“The first duty of love is to listen”.

-Paul Tillich

Sunlight filters into the room, carrying its warmth. Despite the warmth of the sun, the room is filled with the sadness, anger, frustration of the two who sit facing one another; not even aware that their heart’s are closed to one another. The woman sits tense, her face set in anger, frustration. “I never heard you say that before”, she cries out. His body sags in defeat and frustration, “ I’ve been saying this over and over. You just haven’t been willing to hear me.”

Conversations much like this one have been so common over the years. The act of listening seems so easy. Most people would tell me they listen all the time. Some would even say they feel they are good listeners. And they might well be. However, one of the most difficult aspects to work with in relationship is how we listen – or not.

The most difficult and yes, the most loving thing we do is listen. Not to listen to what we want to hear, but to listen to what is really being said. So many times, while a beloved is speaking, we are formulating what we want to say back to them. Not really hearing what they are saying, but what we have already assumed they are saying. In that place, what is hidden inside us is what we respond from. In those places, we only hear what we assume they are saying. And in that place, our heart is closed. To the other person, and to ourselves. To listen when we don’t understand, especially when we don’t understand, is a way to practice vulnerability.

So, what does it mean to listen? There are many aspects to the act of listening.

There is listening to what is being said and hearing what is not said, as described above. There is listening to our own heart’s longing, our intuition. There is listening to the energetic knowing that we hear as it resonates in our bodies.

How often do we hear our body saying, “Don’t eat that, don’t take another drink, don’t do this or that”, and we do it anyway. We hear ourselves, hear what would be good for us, not good for us, and we do it anyway. The voice of our body speaks to us every day . Our body is our primary feedback mechanism. It tells us when we are with someone we know isn’t good for us. Our bodies register energies that don’t feel good to us in some way. It tells us when we feel fear, anger, sadness; if only we would listen. This unwillingness to listen feeds our lack of self- respect. When we do something we hear ourselves say would hurt us if we do it and we don’t listen, we feed our lack of self- love. The cycle becomes self- defeating and self- destructive, leading eventually to despair.

Another place we find ourselves challenged is in learning to listen to our intuition. Intuition is a deep form of listening that when trusted can return us to our Oneness with all that is. When we listen to our intuition we can hear our own heart’s longing. We can act from the inner most part of ourself, which can lead us to build resiliency.

“Deep listening is more than hearing with our ears, but taking in what is revealed in any given moment with our body, our being, our heart”.

-Susan McHenry

Deep listening requires that we be present. Being present in all aspects of our lives gives us the opportunity to hear what is truly being said, to listen and respond to our heart’s longing, to stay with all we are and all we are capable of bringing to relationship.
To hear our own inner truth gives us the ability to choose. Instead of being swept away in what is expected, what does not authentically live inside us, we can choose to hear our own heart’s longing; to respond from listening and being present to what we hear and feel inside us. To be willing to choose ourselves. This form of listening comes from courage. It takes courage to choose to be present with ourselves. It takes courage to be present and listen to ourself and to act on what we hear.

Take a moment to sit quietly. Go within and just wait. Allow the stillness to grow inside you. Can you hear your own heart? Do a body scan and feel the places where you hold tension, perhaps anger, sadness, joy, peace. Can you hear what it is you would want, need, feel, allow? Can you be present with yourself long enough to listen?

The relationship with ourselves and with another begins with listening. I invite you to begin; right here, right now. Hear your own voice, your own heart. May you listen deeply to all you are. May you trust what you hear.