It is so easy to watch someone’s mouth move while you think of what you want to say next. To truly listen means to turn off your internal dialog, to tame your thought monkeys into idea generators for your personal evolution.
Listening is setting all of your conditioning aside for the honor and privilege of truly seeing the person across from you (paid in full by your humanity and with your absolute attention). It is difficult and easy, psychologically rewarding and costly.
To practice the art of truly listening you must not only pay attention when a person is across from you, but when you are alone (when those thought monkeys really come out and play).
Listening to your internal dialog without judgement or pity or conviction is where it all starts. You cannot truly listen to someone else without it. You may have already experienced it and not realized it. And it might seem overwhelming (truly listening 24/7). Start out small, one conversation at a time, one thought at a time. Be kind to you and compassion will automatically spill over when you listen to others.
Have you ever had the immediate urge to put your hand on someone’s arm, their thigh when sitting next to them. You may have moved to hug another without thinking, but then hesitated and pulled back. What is that? What is it that stops you from following your natural instincts? THAT is conditioning.
You’ve been conditioned to behave, to act according to the situation, and it is automatic not only with new acquaintances, but in long-term relationships as well. The former is easy to adjust, because there is no baggage. The latter has a higher cost, because it requires that you dig deep to find the lost instincts buried underneath mounds of “you’re [this]” and “you’re [that]” – all those things your parents, siblings, schoolmates, teachers, and previous lovers told you growing up.
So how do you get through all that conditioning to find the immediacy of authentic reciprocation?
If you truly listen (like we just talked about), you will notice the vulnerability and offering of others right away. You will also see those pesky painful, difficult situations as opportunities for learning and way-stations for joy and you will sincerely not want out of them. You will be calm and present and grateful, and reciprocation will simply happen without thinking or purpose or planning.
“The most fulfilling relationships are those where listening is practiced, reciprocation comes natural, and gratitude is prevalent.” -Amy Larson, amyjalapeno.com