To Listen

We confuse hearing and listening. To hear means to perceive sound. To listen means to apply ourselves to hearing; in other words, to pay attention to what we hear.

Hearing happens all the time. Right now, my house seems empty of sound – no radio, no television, no music, no one home. I could say the house is silent. And yet, if I apply hearing, I notice the faint sound of an airplane, the faint sound of the laptop entering pixels of information, and of course my typing on the keyboard. But if I listen even more intently on this quiet morning, I hear the faint undertone of a city as it moves and lives. And even more focused listening hears my breathing, hears the words I want to write.

Sounds come and go all the time and we don’t even notice. We aren’t really listening.

We don’t listen to ourselves either and disregard the constant chatter that goes on: a litany of reminders, a litany of self-abuse for something we forgot (that was stupid, we tell ourselves), a misstep (what is wrong with you, we tell ourselves) but we don’t really hear those words. And our heads keep saying them.

Practice listening within, recognize the state of your emotions, your frustrations, the old tapes you run and rerun. Now practice stopping the tapes.

When we stop the reruns and the useless chatter and the fears, we reach clarity. And we listen, not only with our hearing but with our hearts.

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