The Basic Practice

One spiritual practice is often associated with others. Listening involves attention, being present, and hospitality, and it is a component of devotion, nurturing, and wonder.

Listening is our bridge to the wisdom of sacred texts and spiritual teachers. It is an essential part of the discernment process whereby we identify God's messages for us. Listening enables us to tune in to others and our inner voices of intuition and conscience. It is how we know we are part of the natural, technological, and media worlds all around us.

But it takes practice to be a really good listener. Start by listening like a baby does upon encountering a sound for the first time. Then listen like a child, noticing music, rhythm, and the variety of noises. Next, tune in to the messages coming to you from all directions and multiple levels of experience. And remember the advice of Native American seers: speak only half as much as you listen.

Why This Practice May Be For You

There is perhaps no greater way to show our regard for our friends, family, and associates than to truly listen to them. The "listening heart," as this attitude is called, leads to a deepening of relationships and a greater sense of self for all parties. And this kind of communication isn't limited to human interactions. Listen to an animal, the waves on the beach, or the roar of a city neighborhood, and you will come to a greater appreciation of your place in the universe.

Conversely, an inability or unwillingness to listen is a symptom of self-centeredness. It signals that we are shut up in ourselves, not interested in participating in what is going on around us. It can also indicate an obliviousness to our own best interests which may be trying to make themselves known through our inner voices. In a universe where so many things are speaking to us on so many levels, it is not wise to ignore the voices.

Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing

  • Putting on headphones is a cue for me to practice listening.
  • Noticing how an animal pricks up its ears at the slightest sound, I am reminded to keep my ears open to the world around me.
  • Whenever I tell a story to a friend and sense that he or she is not really attending to it, I vow to be a better listener.
  • Blessed is the Divine Ear who tutors us in the art of listening.