Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of December 30, 2019

Listening Presence

(Relationship Presence: 1)

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There is a big difference between actively listening to someone and passively hearing them. With active listening, we are fully engaged with the other person or persons in the conversation. We get the meaning of what they are saying. We take in their body language as they speak. We feel what they are saying and empathize with them. Our mind is mostly quiet and attentive. No thoughts or concerns interpose themselves between us and the person speaking. If, while listening, something comes to us that we wish to say, we let it be and stay with the listening, trusting our mind to remember it when it comes our turn to speak. We are neither inwardly judging, preparing our next words, nor anxiously poised to jump in as soon as there is a sliver of an opening. We are just listening.

And we are there in the listening. We are the listener. We are with the person who is speaking and open to them. We are so focused on listening that there is no room for thoughts to disturb us and, after a time, inner stillness opens in us. There is this person speaking to us. Inside us is pure awareness, with no boundaries. It embraces both the speaker and us. Behind the listening there is cognizant stillness. Behind the speaking there is silent awareness. They are same. We are both inside of that. We are the same: the speaker and the listener acting within this seamless field of consciousness. We have moved beyond connection to identity. This is love as listening.

Why do this? The reasons are many. Most importantly it makes the person we are listening to feel heard. We give them the gift of non-judgmental attention and of feeling heard. This is deeply satisfying for them. It makes them feel appreciated. It makes them feel their own value. It makes them feel connected. Furthermore, the person who is speaking while we are really listening can discover new things about themselves and new understandings about the world. The act of truly listening brings depth to the conversation, and often joy. It is an act of love.

On our side of the ledger, listening addresses our most serious impediment on the way to the spiritual reality by exposing and working against our ego. When we are chomping at the bit to say what we have to say, it is generally our ego at work. When we inwardly criticize the person speaking, it is generally our ego at work. When we keep inwardly rehearsing what we will say next, it is generally our ego at work. When we feel that what we have to say is truer and more important than what the other person is saying, it is generally our ego at work.

Ego operates through thoughts and emotions, and more deeply through our attitudes, especially toward other people. The self-centered attitudes of egoism drive our thoughts, emotions, and actions. By working at listening in stillness, we expose those attitudes. We see that just listening is difficult because some of our attitudes oppose it. Seeing these egoistic tendencies brings the light of awareness to help free us of them. Our ego does not want to listen. Our ego does not acknowledge the inherent value of other people or of what they say. The antidote is listening. Our ego dissolves in just listening.

Listening presence also matters because it is a fundamental practice of presence, which itself is fundamental the spiritual way. To really listen, we need to be there, entirely. Listening presence engages the whole of ourselves. It is an act of will that enables us to be. We bring everything into a strong though relaxed attention on the person speaking. That attention, when sustained, entrains our whole being. It brings our body into the listening, as well as our mind and heart. We are present entirely, listening.

Lastly, listening presence matters because only in presence are we fully alive.

For this week, please practice listening presence.

See Also: the earlier article on Listening Presence


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