True Listening by Sakyong Mipham
BY SAKYONG MIPHAM
The receptive state of listening is a kind of auditory meditation, says Sakyong Mipham. It is an important way to gain wisdom and insight. But it’s not easy.
It is said that when the Buddha first taught, two deer approached, knelt down, and raised their ears. The two deer symbolize the act of listening, a sublime way of being present in the moment. Their perked-up ears represent keen attentiveness, their kneeling bodies relaxation and respect. The receptive state of listening is an important way to gain wisdom and insight. It is auditory meditation.
True listening is not always easy. It is a skill we develop. In this era of technological expertise and emotional unavailability, all too often there is more speaking than listening. We are not really conversing but merely exchanging rhetoric.
For a genuine dialogue to occur, speaking and listening must both play leading roles. Conversation is a dance and play between two interlocking human minds, which naturally creates harmony. Therefore, having a good conversation is an art that benefits oneself and others.
In the art of conversation, two people are equal partners. When one is speaking, one is more active; when one is listening, one is more receptive. A conversation where someone is speaking but no one is listening fosters disharmony—within the conversation and within the relationship. Thus, in order for the conversation to be healthy and productive and to grow, both participants need to take turns listening.
One reason we have conversations is that often we just need someone to hear what we have to say. However, in a world where we are constantly encouraged to indulge and gratify our own desires, it can be difficult to find someone to listen, because that means focusing on the other person rather than oneself. Unfortunately, we are creating a culture in which everyone is expressing themselves but no one is listening.
Listening often requires a greater sense of calm and self-assurance than talking. A good listener is not threatened by another taking the reins of power.
These days we have to hire people to listen to us. Coaches and therapists are trained in the art of listening, providing a space in which we can simply express ourselves. Their listening enables our stress, fear, worries, and insecurities to be revealed and liberated. In the same way, by learning to listen we can digest, contemplate, and engage in the thoughts of another, understanding and responding to their emotional state.
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