I've been meditating daily on "listening" and asking myself a lot lately, what does it really mean to listen? But, asking oneself, "What does it mean dear one for you to 'listen'?" is also to learn, what it means to be inwardly distracted.
What is required of me to listen, to soothe my distractedness enough that I can tolerate what is present?
Tara Brach says, "If we're really honest, there aren't that many moments that we 'put down our life'...and are fully available to fully receive what's offered." (watch Tara's talk here).
So often, we're caught in the habit of reacting when we hear something triggering, that we loose sight of our skill to respond. The habit of reacting could be judging ourselves for what we feel, think, or how we behave, to simply doing to or with others. Deep "listening" is attending to, tuning in, seeing agendas, discovering unmet needs, catching the difficulty of accepting the impact of one's needs on another like a fish in a gentle basket and letting go of it.
Mark Nepo's book Seven Thousand Ways to Listen is a companion guide along the journey of prayer-like attention. It's poetic, at times linear, and offers a rich mirror to the pains associated with tuning in, which so often image back the difficult emotions. This book is a generous guide for the heart and soul and serves as an anchor and coach ~ where am I coming from? Can I be a friend to myself? Nepo offers his reader to "listen to the part of you that life is trying to wake," (p.13).
Letting go of the agenda for one's impact to be more palatable on the ear of another is a gracious, generous act that requires patience. And patience is won at the hand of effort. And to be effortful one must first and with devotion commit one's attention toward their intention, allowing desire like inertia, to carry their arrow toward the mark after launch.
Learning about the qualities of attention brings us in touch with "attention's" shadow, "aversion." And then there are the strategies of distraction from what thoughts, feelings, and behaviors feel intolerable. What are those strategies? And beyond them...there is what is waiting to be heard?