Listening sometimes means hearing a lot of noise. New practitioners of meditation can attest to this. Sit down, turn your attention inwardly and the sound of a million disparate voices, songs and static fill your awareness.
Listening also allows us the opportunity to ‘hear’ or feel sensations in the body, which can also be vying for our attention all at once, with varying degrees of magnitude – the knee, aching neck and you know how this list goes on.
Sometimes, our default method of being is not listening at all, this is when the mind with its requisite body attached just keeps moving, keeps doing, maybe takes an aspirin or sleeping pill to continue doing things as it always does, with whatever it takes attitude, to just get through what we think we need to do. It’s as if our head wasn’t fully attached to our body, but slightly a-head of it. When in this mode, we are not in tune with the wordless language of the body, we’re overriding it.
Additionally, we overthink things all the time. The thinking mind can and does liberally, interpret and pile on stories to everything, including a simple sensation. When this is occurring we no longer hear the original voice of sensation, but have become lost in thought and have interjected meaning into it. This is a slippery slope, and in terms of the body is what I call the Woody Allen affect – feel a small headache and you have a brain tumor sprouting.
With mindfulness of the body practice, we can experience the sensations as they are and begin to intuit what the body needs. This knowing quality is a wisdom that blossoms from listening and watching ourselves over time. So we actually feel when the body is in a fallow period, when it needs rest and rejuvenation and do what we can to take care or act with kindness and respect to the needs of the body. And, we can distinguish between a sensation as a signal of distress and the interpretation of sensations that have been over-laid with thoughts. Once the thinking mind goes wild with stories, anxiety and fear arise and take hold becoming their own version of reality. With mindfulness we can catch ourselves more quickly when this cascade happens and bring our mind back to what is happening now – feeling a sensation, listening rather than interpreting.
Our bodies are precious, reflective of our thoughts and emotions and often rather quiet until they just have to scream. Listening deeply to the body is mindfulness of the body, it’s a state of hearing the subtle before it becomes gross, it requires an open and quite mind. Listening allows for a wise and kind response to what we hear and is sometimes just called sanity. It is true courage in action for feeling what is, and not ignoring, dismissing or bypassing is one of the most radical acts of courageousness and kindness. What blooms from this garden of being is the ability to be with what is quietly and fearlessly.