Nature provides us with the ability to hear with our ears, and our minds help us to do something with what we hear—that’s the difference between hearing and listening. There’s another level of listening that goes beyond that process, though. I call it listening from the heart.
Throughout our daily lives, lessons appear to us in a multitude of forms and many of us miss out because we don’t know how to listen from the heart. This type of listening calls on your intuition, and asks you to be an observer and student of your environment, relationships, and experiences. It requires an interesting mix of focus and giving yourself over to whatever is happening, and the result is subtle but powerful kind of self-discovery and personal growth.
I recently decided to experiment by spending more time in this state of observation rather than in my usual activation mode, and the impact on my personal development and growth has been remarkable. Not only am I enjoying new insights about my own life and work I also am experiencing resurgence in my creative sensibilities.
In fact, the quieter I get, the more I listen. And the more I listen, the more I learn. And of course, the more I learn, the more I create and the richer my perspectives and ideas become. It’s as if the teacher in me has decided to enjoy being a student of life again and it all started by listening from my heart instead of my rational mind. Here’s how it works:
Start with empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. When you begin to actively listen to others and the world around you from a state of empathy your own self-awareness and knowledge increases. This direct connection with the heart is a much better listening approach than the rational mindful approach, which usually comes from a place of judgment.
Allow yourself to listen to your experiences with no motive. Instead of leading with your existing impressions or a sense of how something impacts you, try instead to listen from the other person’s perspective. With time, this empathetic approach expands your ability to listen from the heart and will transform the way you take in information.
Learn to be quiet in conversation
Conversation sometimes feels like a tennis match, the back and forth, and the way you look ahead to your next move in order to stay ahead. Next time you find yourself in one of these athletic conversations, try putting your ego in your back pocket and be quiet. Don’t jump to engage at every turn; let the other person lead and determine the course and rhythm of the conversation. When you learn to be comfortable in silence in a conversation, you will see how different your takeaway becomes and your connection to the person deepens.
Listening to others from the heart doesn’t only mean listening to words; it means listening to their energy, emotions, and body language. It’s a kind of heart-to-heart listening that elevates the experience of conversation.
Spend time with animals
I recently spent a day with an amazing horse whisperer named John Duperry and his two beautiful horses, Merlot and Hunter and learned more about listening from the heart than from any other experience or book I have read.
Animals are master heart-listeners and can read your emotions and feelings more than humans can. Spend enough time with animals with this in mind and you’ll get better at listening from the heart in spite of yourself! Think about your own pets, of course, but also consider volunteering at an animal shelter, pet-sitting for a neighbor, or even visiting a farm to engage with other kinds of animals. Let them teach you.
There is a great deal of wisdom that already exists inside each of us that we can access through mediation. Think of meditation as ongoing training for listening from the heart. Use the quiet time to still the mind and fuel your spiritual gifts. Self-discovery, intellectual advancement, and the ability to grow your innate genius can be enhanced by meditation.
Allow your heart to reveal your true nature
One’s true self is raw, fragile, and filled with vulnerability yet most of us hide that self behind big egos, trying to protect ourselves from ourselves in a way. While this self-preservation is understandable, it’s not sustainable over the long haul.
I was reminded of this fact just this morning when a wise taxi driver told me “Never fight nature.” At first I thought he was referring to the rain outside but he continued to share that in life we must embrace our true selves and accept our natures.
Teachers are not always scholarly old men with white beards and pocket protectors. Sometimes our greatest teachers come in small packages, like the hummingbird that comes to my kitchen window, slowing down his flutter as if to say, “Put down that sponge and enjoy my dance.”
I hope this has inspired you to quiet your mind and listen with your heart; you can’t know what you’ve been missing until you give this a try!