Essay by Jeannette Encinias
Listening is an act of love. An art form. A skill that you can cultivate and practice.
Listening is a gift of silence, of learning, of putting to bed your hungry words so that you can scoop up the voice of another person and hold it in the space between your life and theirs.
What an intimacy this can be. Your ears astute, a person’s story heard, a thread to bind you in a window of time.
Have you felt that before? I have. It’s divine.
Our world is noisy. It’s getting noisier by the day. Peace and quiet often seem out of reach. People feel unheard, left out, alone. The shouting is getting louder. The fences are growing taller. We have created a world where only the voices we are comfortable hearing can be heard and we grow narrow by this apathy. We dismiss each other. We turn our backs. We create an echo chamber that cages us all.
Listening well is a way to untether yourself from this madness. A way to move toward love and a more expansive understanding. A way to grow up and grow wise.
Listening is not passive. It requires your breath and your presence. You must call on your patience and your strength. Listening asks more from you than talking ever will.
Talking is easy and we know it.
But can you be curious and open without shutting the doors of your mind too quickly? Can you sense the fear that lives inside of us all? The love and the longing as well? Can you breathe into the beating heart and expanding lungs? Can you remember that we all have blood and bones and one day none of that at all?
Can you skip a beat? Can you skip two?
There are times to make your voice heard. There are years when your story must be told and when your silence is not a gift. Shout it then. Write it. Paint it. Sing it. Let no one and nothing stop you. And then there are times to prop up those ears and lift your chin. Offer up your beautiful attention.
As we move into the rest of this truly breathtaking year and into the rest of our lives, can you study the art of listening? Can you shake up the talking vs. listening ratio? Can you let this listening strengthen you and not get the best of you? Can you become more than you ever were before?
These are questions I ask myself and so here I offer them to you.