Everything important in our lives involves our capacity to listen.  We are always in conversation.  With ourselves, those around us and the wider world.  Listening requires us to be mindful about listening.  Think about the countless times you’ve been speaking with someone, and rather than listening to what they are saying, you remain focused on formulating a response.  We can all relate to that.

Or think about the seemingly intractable political and cultural divide plaguing our nation. So many of us refuse to listen to others whose political beliefs, cultural values or sexual practices are different from our own. The dramatic and shocking demise of our capacity to be in conversation with one another intensifies the rampant acrimony of our political and cultural landscape.  Listening, it would seem, has gone out of fashion.

When we listen, the boundary between self and other becomes porous.  As we take the other inside us, self and other connect in a meaningful way. Listening is an act of love. 

How do we strengthen our capacity to listen?  It involves a commitment to becoming receptive and open.  It requires a shift from an exclusive focus on self, on our thoughts, our feelings, our reactions, wishes, hopes, and fears, to a consideration of the experience of others.    

Our commitment to listen, transforms the nature of the conversation we establish with the world around us.  When we remain focused solely on our own thoughts and perspectives, we make ourselves small.  When we listen, we engage others and the wider world in loving embrace.

When we truly listen, we recognize the existence of a much larger whole, the seamless web of all creation. We develop a greater appreciation for how I belong to you and you belong to me. How your spiritual awakening is connected to mine. How my spiritual awakening is connected to yours. How each of us is our brother’s keeper.  When we listen, we become fully present, enhancing our experience of being alive, right here, right now. 

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Neal Aponte

Neal Aponte is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 30 years of experience providing psychotherapy for adults, adolescents and children. Read more here.