Listening as a Spiritual Practice
One of the simplest forms of meditation is listening. You don't even have to sit still to practice listening. Except for when you are asleep, listening is always happening. You are either listening to the mind or to something else. When we are not listening to the mind, the opportunity exists to be aware that listening is still happening. Listening is part of Awareness, which is a name that is often given to our true nature. If you look closely at who you really are, you find only Awareness—vast empty space that is aware, conscious. You are this consciousness, this awareness, of the mind, of feelings, of sounds, of sights, of sensations, of energy, of what is in any moment.
Exercise: Listening Meditation
You can do this meditation anywhere. Notice the sounds in your environment without thinking about them or commenting on them. If you catch yourself thinking about a sound or something else, then gently bring yourself back to listening. Notice how a sound comes into your awareness and then disappears. Even sounds that continue for a long time are never exactly the same moment to moment. Every sound is unique and comes freshly out of the moment. You never know what the next sound will be or when it will appear. You never know what combination of sounds will appear. Listening to the sounds that arise in each moment, keeps you noticing and allowing the moment to be just the way it is. It firmly plants you in Awareness, which experiences every moment as rich.
Listening aligns you immediately with Awareness, or your true Self, because listening is an aspect of it. Awareness is allowing by nature, and listening allows whatever is being heard. Listening puts you in a receptive state that allows whatever is happening. It doesn't act on what is happening, and it doesn't have an opinion about it; it just allows it to be the way it is. Listening can be more than just a meditation; it can become a spiritual practice for every moment. It's the opposite of what the mind does with whatever is happening.
Listening as a spiritual practice is much easier, more peaceful, and keeps you much less busy than listening to the mind. While listening to the mind is wearisome and following it is exhausting, listening as a spiritual practice is simple, joyous, and calming. This type of listening could become the way you are in the world in every moment. Listening can become a way of being and remaining aligned with your true Self, and life can be lived very nicely from this vantage point.
You will find that this listening is more like a full-body listening because it takes place not only through the ears but through your entire body, energy field, and beyond. Listening gets you in touch with the Awareness that is paying attention to this moment. It aligns you with your true nature.
As you listen and allow yourself to be receptive to whatever is happening in this moment, you can feel the energy of your true Self, which is fully at peace and content with this moment. This tangible energy of the Self is a sign that you are aligned with it. When this energy is absent, you are likely to be aligned, or identified, with something else—the mind. You can use this sensation of energy to check each moment to see whether you are identified with the mind or the Self. You listen to this energy, which is another way of saying you notice this energy.
The act of noticing, or listening, brings you into the moment—the now—and the act of allowing keeps you in the now. Once you notice what is happening by listening, in order to stay in the now, you must allow it. Once you land in the now, the mind tends to come in and reject something about it, which takes you back out of it. Allowing is the nature of the Self, so when you allow, you automatically align yourself with it. This doesn't mean you will be passive in the world because the Self moves us in whatever ways are necessary as it sees fit.
You can make listening a spiritual practice by just listening without thinking. You can't listen and think at the same time, so if you catch yourself thinking, just bring yourself back to listening. Any judgments, opinions, stories, beliefs, labels, or concepts that arise are the mind coming in. Note these and then return to listening. Just keep coming back to listening and see how this transforms your life. Do this as often as you can until you become established in listening as your natural state, and you will find yourself more and more aligned with your true Self—with peace, contentment, joy, acceptance, and love.
Gina Lake is a spiritual teacher who is devoted to helping others wake up and live in the moment through her many books, counseling, and intensives. She has a master's degree in counseling psychology and over twenty years experience supporting people in their spiritual growth. Her latest book is Loving in the Moment: Moving from Ego to Essence in Relationship, available on Amazon.com. Her website offers information about her books and consultations, free e-books, book excerpts, a free monthly newsletter, a blog, and audio and video recordings: www.radicalhappiness.com.