Updated: May 24, 2018
In a time when we have more external influences competing for our attention than ever before it becomes harder and harder to discern what is actually worth listening to. We hear all sort of things; tv commercials, cell phones ringing, text messages buzzing, emails arriving, but when it comes to listening to what we are hearing it seems we have lost that art. We no longer know how to listen; to ourselves, our bodies, our environment and to each other.
Listening starts with paying attention. Yet, with all the distractions in our daily lives, what are we really paying attention to? We live in an age of perpetual distraction and it’s no wonder most of us have the attention span of a 5 year old. We have IPhones glued to our fingers, computers that never get turned off, Ipod buds in our ears, tvs on in the background and a myriad of other methods to drown out the messages we get on a daily basis. We eat to sooth ourselves, drink and smoke to relax and have prescriptions for anxiety, depression and just about every other emotion that we no longer know how to deal with.
As a result of all this distraction, we are lonely, feel disconnected from others and record numbers of people are on medication for depression. The phenomena of the obsession with social media is proof that we are craving more connection and want to be seen and heard. The irony of this is that when we are actually with people face to face, we are barraged with constant interruptions. When was the last time you gave someone your 100% complete undivided attention and actually heard what they were saying? Many times when we think we are listening, we are actually preoccupied with our own thoughts. What am I going to say next? How am I going to respond? Wait till she hears my story! To truly listen to another we must take ourselves out of the equation and really hear them.
Our bodies talk to us all the time and yet we think we know better. When was the last time you were hungry and you actually “asked” your body what it wanted or needed? Or did you listen when your body told you it was full and not to finish the second half of the sandwich just because it was there and tasted oh-so-good? What about injuries and pain that you feel in a certain area of your body? Do you listen and give it rest or ignore it, once again thinking you know better?
At one point I found myself waking up with lower back pain. I started to notice that it was usually present when I was having doubts about my relationship and was not quite ready to deal with it. Or pretend that how I was feeling about it was really not that important. Basically, I didn’t want to face the truth that this was not the person for me and my intuition and higher self knew this. When I’d try and push the doubtful thoughts away, it manifested in the form of physical pain so that it would get my attention. Then the pain became an actual injury, which I then proceded to re-injure. Three chiropractic sessions and a conversation later and back pain is gone. I finally listened!
Are you listening to yourself when you judge others and make the comparison of less than, better than? When you judge others, you are actually condemning something in yourself. Next time you notice yourself judging someone, remember that you can never know what that person has experienced or what is going on in his/her life. You can never know what it feels like to be someone else. Practicing compassion is instead of criticism will actually uplift you in a more heartful way.
So what can we do in this age of distraction and disconnection? Pay attention!
Decide to take a few quiet minutes throughout the day to check in with your body. Am I feeling any tension? Do I need a walk? To stretch? More water? Some nutritious snack to fuel my body?
Make a commitment to yourself and others that you will be fully present when someone is offering you their time. It is not only more respectful, your time together will be much more fulfilling and you will connect on a deeper level.
When feeling less then optimal due to illness or injury take a look at what is going on in your life that you have neglected to pay attention to. This can range from working too much to avoiding a difficult conversation to finding more fulfilling work to allowing yourself more time for fun and play.
Give yourself extended breaks from all your electronic distractions. Your Iphone won’t explode, Facebook won’t send out an search and rescue squad and how urgent really is that text message from your best buddy who is bored at work?
We are so enthralled in all this technology that we sometimes truly forget the best things in life are the most simple: wonderful conversation over a delicious dinner, a walk in nature on a glorious spring day, savoring a cup of coffee catching up with a best friend and even the quiet time alone where we can listen to nothing more than our own breath, where we know, in this moment that all is well.