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Hearing vs. Listening

Last night was one of those nights I fell asleep right away, but woke about two hours later and struggled to fall back asleep the rest of the night. After a few hours of tossing and turning, I finally got up and turned on one of my favorite movies, City of Angels.

If you have never seen this wonderful movie, it is about an angel who falls in love with a mortal and literally falls (gives up being an angel) for her. While I adore the entire movie, one of my favorite scenes is when the angels gather at the ocean for sunrise. They gather to listen. While humans watch the sunrise, the angels hear glorious music as the sun rises. Like I always do, I thought how amazing that would be! This was the thought that came back to me when I tried falling asleep after the movie.

While, to my knowledge, grandiose music doesn’t spring forth from sunrise, would most people even notice if the sunrise was accompanied by music? We’re all too busy to listen! How many of nature’s songs do we fail to hear? How much meaningful conversation do we half listen to? How unaccustomed are most of us to having quiet moments, to allowing silence?

In our day-to-day lives, we hear so much, but listen so little. Obviously, there is some self-preservation involved, we have to filter out a lot of superfluous noise or we’d go mad. However, instead of always tuning out, what if we spent more time tuning in?

Listen beyond the cacophony of your life–what else do you hear? Perhaps you’ll hear the whisper of a child asking you to curl up and read a book. Or, maybe you will hear your dear friend’s pain behind her biting words. Listen as your mother prattles on about her animals–she’s really saying, “I’m lonely, I miss you, and this is what gives me comfort right now.” Maybe your neighbor who goads you into a political debate is really trying to say he wants to engage in meaningful conversation, or that he’s searching for understanding.

Instead of hearing the other person’s words while formulating your response, or paying attention to the tv, or looking for a way out of the conversation, tune-in and hear what the other person is saying (and when you get good at it, you’ll even recognize what he/she isn’t saying!) In coaching, this is known as focused listening and it is a gift for both the speaker and the listener…the speaker feels heard and understood, the listener is able to engage in a meaningful interaction. Give it a try, it’s refreshing!

Now that you’ve given someone else the gift of listening, treat yourself. Tune out the noise, and find the sounds of nature and nurturing around you. Even if you live in a noisy city filled with the sounds of stress and strife, there is something peaceful to be heard. At first you will hear the obvious, but listen for the undertones. Tune your ears and listen for love expressed as a giggle or the smack of a kiss; listen for the joy of family togetherness expressed as dinnertime conversation; listen for the nurturing sounds of the wind in the trees or rain on the pavement; listen for contentment in the purr of a cat or the muffled snoring of a beloved dog. No matter where you are, listen for what you want to hear.

I am blessed to live in a quiet, somewhat rural environment and often quiet my mind and listen to the sounds around me. As I listen, I find a unique symphony of sounds–perhaps not as grandiose as what a sunrise would play–but still perfect in its rhythm; and in that rhythm I find proof that life is good!

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2 comments on “Hearing vs. Listening

  1. Your means of describing everything in this paragraph
    is truly good, all be able to easily be aware of it, Thanks a lot.

  2. Wait, the When Harry Met Sally scene? THAT one?? Guess what will be the top request at the next reunion! 😉

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