Monday, October 19, 2015

Tuning out, tuning in

The sound of thunder and lightning and a million grains of sand being stirred by monsoon winds in the desert. Photo by me.
Listening is something I spend a lot of time doing and thinking about, but over the past year or two I have noticed that my feelings about it have evolved quite a bit. In a nutshell, I'm seeing more and more that the times when I just can't bear to listen have as much to teach me as anything else.

My best listening these days, and really probably all of my days, is done outside. The crunch of needles on the floor of a dry pine forest, the sound of wind rustling eucalyptus leaves. My worst listening seems to come indoors, particularly in conference rooms with no windows.

Listening itself is a spectacularly complex act. I continue to feel strongly that defining what we mean by listening (for me it's about listening with a willingness to be changed by what I hear) and taking it seriously as a skill that can trigger conflict is valuable.

As I practice myself, I am more and more cognizant of my own internal conflict around the fact that too many voices are silenced (as opposed to choosing silence) and too often too many are given roles that involve participating as rapt audience members whose *only* job is to listen. And in those cases, I have really noticed that I express the only power, and protection, that I have, which is to *stop* listening.

As I have become more aware of my own habits and reactions, I have to take them seriously. I see how often I begin to block things out simply because I have become hyper-aware of who is and isn't at the table, who I am being asked to listen to, whether it's reciprocal, whether I need or want it to be. I find myself filtering out huge numbers of conversations and seeking out completely different ones. I find myself challenging the concept of expertise. 

There is an enormous social context to this issue that I am really not addressing here. For now, I guess I'm just sharing my own process as I contemplate and am inspired by all the ways this could be a different world.

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