Although it’s a topic beyond the scope of this book, I find practising mindfulness useful. It helps you to shut out the world and focus.
My friend and mindfulness expert Karen Ramsay-Smith has, though, given me a wonderful exercise to share with you here.
Karen is a Transformational Coach and Mindfulness Guide. She supports people to connect with their truth and soul message, empowering them to feel the freedom and inner strength to come back to a life of love, purpose and fulfilment. Please do look her up, she is wonderful at what she does.
These days we are so focused on our thoughts and actions that we often forget how to listen with care. Practising mindful listening simply means that you are intentionally engaging in the skill of deep listening. The art of listening is as much about your mindset as it is about the actual practice of listening.
This is not something that many of us will have been taught to do in our lives or work! However, when you believe that listening deeply is important and that the practice of listening will bring about positive response, change or action, then this skill will become a great asset to you.
Karen’s exercise below is a great way to start practising deep mindful listening.
Exercise – from Karen Ramsay-Smith
This is something that you can use regularly to practise your listening skills.
Choose ten minutes during which you are going to practise mindful listening. At first try this on your own in different surroundings, then later try it with a partner and then as part of a group of people.
1. Pay attention to your intention
Set your intention to mindful listening. By setting an intention to practise deep listening you have focused your attention on the exercise. You must believe that listening is important, so focus on why you might want to listen more deeply for these ten minutes ahead. Make the commitment to yourself to do this for the full ten minutes.
2. Remove distractions and get comfy
Turn your phone, laptop, TV or whatever might distract you off or to silent. This will produce the right conditions for mindful listening. Make sure you are comfortable. If you are practising with another person, is there anything that can be done to make them more comfortable and remove distractions for them too?
3. It’s not about YOU
Take the focus away from yourself. Put yourself into the situation fully, the atmosphere or the other person’s shoes if you are practising with a partner or group. Practise respect for the experience, situation or other person. If you are thinking about yourself, you won’t have the space or attention to give to mindful listening.
4. Be quiet
We don’t often get a chance to practise being quiet in our busy lives, but you need to learn to become still in order to be able to hear the whole experience. If you are not used to being quiet or spending time listening, try a walk outside in nature. Listening in intently to the sound of our natural world can be incredibly calming, healing and will help fine tune your listening skills. Practise trying to listen in for the gaps in any noise of the birds singing, the wind whistling or the rain drops falling.
5. Be curious
Never make assumptions or assume you know everything. Listen without judgement or the compulsion to react. This is especially important if you are practising mindful listening with another person or group. Making assumptions can make us miss important details in another’s response. If you are listening alone while you are in a park for example, then listen more deeply than you normally would. What can you hear that you wouldn’t normally hear? How can you listen more intently? Be curious about what is there.
6. Be kind to yourself and others
You may find that you feel it difficult not to want to start thinking about what YOU want to say next, to butt in or be judgemental in your mind before the other person has finished their sentence. Be patient with yourself and bring yourself back to your original intention – to mindfully listen deeply to this experience and/or the person present. By practising bringing yourself back to the mindful present feeling you will slowly improve your skill. If you found yourself distracted by your own thoughts and you think you may have missed something, you could clarify and ask them if what you think you have heard is correct.
7. Use your heart to listen
Try your best to connect deeply with the experience or the other person. How can you open yourself up more to listening deeper? Allow your heart to listen, so you connect to them on a deeper level than normal. Listening with your heart means practising empathy. When we pause and give empathy and respect we are fully acknowledging that person by holding the space for them to speak. We are allowing the space for unsaid communication to begin. We are allowing the other person to be open towards us, and in turn a sense of awareness of the experience or the other person will become clearer to you.
Want to go deeper? It all starts with you.
The key to cultivating deep mindful listening and genuine connection to others begins with the relationship that we have with ourselves. Practise intentionally and quietly listening to yourself and your own heart so that you may notice the thoughts, feelings and sensations that arise in yourself. Rather than trying to put them to one side, just be aware of their presence.
If you take time out to listen in and understand yourself more with empathy, love and non-judgement, you will begin to feel more appreciation and compassion for yourself. This in turn will help you to feel more respectful, loving and compassionate for others and will improve your genuine connection, your deep listening skills and improve your relationship with yourself and others.
‘Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.’ St Benedict
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