The holiday season brings socializing, parties, events and inevitably, a lot of talking.  My question is are we listening?  Some are pretty good listeners, but mostly I watch people’s eyes dart around as they wait for their turn to speak or to see if they aren’t missing something more interesting in the room.  Why are we so impatient?  Why can’t we make eye contact for 5 minutes to connect and listen?

I think Americans talk too much.  Perhaps it’s not a cultural phenomenon, but a personality trait; but this society does breed a whole lot of doers, movers, shakers, and well, braggers.  Comparison seems to be a national pastime leading to a lot of conversation about who has what and what we’re doing to keep up.

Among yoga students there is a much better listening capacity that I have noticed.  In some classes, teachers talk a bit before we move our bodies, relating philosophy or setting an intention with which to practice during class.  This is excellent training for sitting still and listening.  Most people just want to move around and get on with the physical part, but the reality is, someone is speaking and it’s time to listen.  Practicing this attentive stillness in class is helpful in cultivating good listening skills off the mat. 

And when we do seem to be listening, are we really taking in what’s being said, or are we being selective in our hearing; interpreting the words coming in as they suit the ego and tuning out what doesn’t seem interesting or relevant? I think people feel uncomfortable with silence.  I notice during conversation, if there is a lull, it’s often filled with repetitive comments or irrelevant ideas just to fill the space. 

With all of the stimuli provided by modern technology, I suppose many feel obligated to particpate in sound-filled activity and kids are certainly trained to jump from one talking head to another.  It would be nice if we had more training in learning how to be quiet; how to listen without feeling obligated to respond; to take in instead of spew out. 

Eric at Yoga Pura is doing a silent meditation on New Year’s Eve.  What a lovely, peaceful way to transition into the new year. It’s not everyone who can be still and quiet for three hours.  It takes a willingness to let go of thinking and talking and doing and the courage to surrender to the silence and peace that’s already in place.  If we listen, we can be in that place all the time.

 

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
Mother Teresa