An essential Presence Practice is Conscious Listening. There are many levels of auditory awareness, both external and internal.
The most obvious level is external listening. It is one of our most important senses for survival. Our brain processes thousands of bits of auditory information every minute. It apprehends and analyzes this incoming data for more purposes than we know. We listen for sounds of approaching danger, like the hiss of tires on the pavement as we walk down the street.
We listen to others converse, but do we truly hear and learn from them?
We also are listening to our thoughts, so our attention is divided between external auditory input and thought, fragmenting our Consciousness, reducing our intelligence and therefore, our effectiveness.
When we’re in conversation, our attention may be divided between listening to our partner’s conversation, analyzing their remarks and waiting for the opportunity to speak. The ego converses competitively, listening for opportunities to top the other and take center stage. The intent of this type of interchange is to gain some advantage, to take rather than give.
Internally it is common to listen and be taken away by any thought that comes along. Most I have asked identify with the voice of their thoughts, giving their power away to their cognitive process, which is frequently operating outside The Now. We all experience times where most or all of our attention is occupied with thought patterns focused away from the Moment. Ask yourself the question: “What percentage of my attention is focused Here/Now?” The first inner response is the true answer. Anything less than 100% is almost a guarantee for inner conflict, groups of thoughts that have opposing opinions.
To summarize, our situation is: we’re not in tune with our environment; we don’t learn from our interactions; and we’re internally conflicted. How can we have a peaceful world under those conditions? This is what my old teacher George Gurdjieff called: The Terror of the Situation.
Conscious Listening is a Presence Practice. Always have your listening attention where you are, like you are living in a dangerous environment and have to be eternally vigilant. In fact, you are.
When in conversation, make your partner the most important person in the world. Give them eye contact, reflect back to them what they are telling you. Listen with every ounce of concentration you can muster. Cultivate Inner Stillness to do that. Allow a three second pause before replying. DO NOT REHEARSE!! You will be given what you need to say when you need to say it. Not a second before.
Use the thinking machine with conscious intention. Always keep an observer’s eye on your thought process. Watch it from a distance. Your mind is not you but a dangerous, powerful tool. Always watch what you do with it.
Practice Conscious Listening and change your relationship to everything!