The practice of Listening requires that you value it. It requires that you carve out a bit of time and space and quiet. I’m sure there are some people out there who could Listen on the fly amidst a crowd of people talking loudly, but for the rest of us, setting a few ground rules around quiet time is just more practical.
Set Aside Time – It’s time to stop the glorification of busy! It’s hard to Listen when you are rushing all over the place. If you can commit to 30 minutes a week and stick to it – taking it as seriously as if it was a doctor’s appointment – you will be rewarded. More calm, more quiet, more insight, more sanity. Put it on your calendar, set a reminder, make it happen. For me, Listening is the main part of my spiritual practice. Sunday mornings, right after I get up and before I shower, dress, or eat, is when I worship (non-traditionally) and Listen, still in my pajamas.
Find Your Solitude Space – Listening can certainly be done in a group, if that is the shared intention. (I’d love to see Listening/Leaping Circles develop, where these practices are honored and participants support one another!) But I’m assuming that most people are starting on this path on their own. The quiet that Listening requires is most easily attained in solitude. Ask your partner for a bit of alone time. Make sure the kids or pets can entertain themselves or are being tended by someone else for a bit. Close the door. If you need to draw a bath and Listen in it for 30 minutes because a closed bathroom door is the only privacy really respected in your house, go for it!
Eliminate Sensory Distractions – When we move on to talking about internal factors, we’ll get into how easily the mind can get distracted. There are tools for training the mind towards quiet, but it also helps to limit what it has to provoke its meanderings. Are the temperature, your clothing, and your position comfortable? Are there any noises that might interrupt or distract that you can turn off, like televisions and/or cell phone ringers? Some people, myself included, are really sensitive to things even beyond the obvious. A unpleasant smell can really annoy me, so I might end up putting the trash out first. Humans are mostly visual creatures, so closing your eyes is the number one thing you can do to reduce distractions. You can’t control everything though, so if you need a fan for white noise, or earplugs, or even an eye cover, do what you have to do.
Consider Nature – You can’t control nature, but it offers opportunities for connection, relaxation and quiet that deserve consideration. Try Listening somewhere outside, where you have a bit of privacy. You might not be able to make it your regular practice, but add it in if and as you can. Back in MI there was a county park that had great hiking trails and little foot traffic. There was a particular bench in a stretch of pine forest that always called out to me. The smell of the pine needles, the dappled green light; hearing the wind was like hearing the trees breathing. I made some big life decisions on that bench. Here in WV there is a state park that is a bit more groomed and a bit less wild, but has a big boulder that whispers to me. It’s great to climb up and sit or lay on it and feel its mass supporting you. It has already started to become a special place to me.
The Listening/Leaping practices are not set in stone. They are about what works for you, which of course might be different than what works for me. Experiment! Consider it play; an adventure. Have some ideas not mentioned? Share them in the comments!