This summer, I am setting my intentions on listening: listening to my body, to my friends, and to the awesome nature around me. I am being mindful of my surroundings. I am paying close attention to what is important. All around me over this past year was noise: people talking, talking, talking and me worrying, worrying, worrying. So I decided to turn everything off – no television, no radio, no endless chatter. I am becoming more discerning of what I listen to. I want beautiful noise: great books, beautiful music, uplifting messages. To do this, first I had to get very, very quiet.
I had to pay attention to life with little sound. I had to cue into my other senses and learn to become present to vibrant colors, fragrant smells, and soft textures on my skin. I found myself being grateful for these simple wonders. I began to slow down, listen to my body, become kinder to myself. I paused and learned to nourish myself with, not only good food and exercise, but with positive media. So much of the media is intended to distract and cause anxiety. I turned away from the constant barrage of news and information. I decided I should be the curator of what I wanted to listen to and take in.
In the last six weeks of using this approach, I have found calm and contentment. I don’t need the noise to keep me company. I can just look up or out or down and be present to my surroundings. I can better tune into what my husband and friends are saying. The more I listen with attentiveness, the more calm I have become. It feels good be present to others. I don’t need to talk. I don’t need to do anything. I just need to listen. Listening is enough.
As I think about returning to teaching in the fall, I think about how I will talk to children about the importance of listening. I’ve been thinking about ways to teach them to center themselves, ignore distractions, and concentrate on the thing or person right in front of them. I continue to reflect on the best ways to do this, and so this will be my summer project for school this year: tuning out the unimportant and tuning in to what is essential, to what nourishes, to what gives us positive outcomes and peace.
Recently, I went to a nearby organic market and found a colorful mural on their cafe wall. It is a perfect example of placing importance of what’s necessary for meaningful communication. I am reflecting on how I will share this with my students as a way to help them develop more thoughtful speaking and deeper listening.
Books about Listening For Adults
Emotional Intelligence: Mindful Listening by The Harvard Business School
How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships by Michael S. Sorensen
Just Listen by Mark Goulston
Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What is Sacred by Mark Nepo
The Art of Listening in a Healing Way by James E. Miller
The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction by Adam S. McHugh
The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships by Michael P. Nichols and Martha B. Straus
The Zen of Listening by Rebecca Z. Shafir
You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why it Matters by Kate Murphy
Picture Books about Listening for Children
Listen, Listen by Phillis Gershator
“I Have a Problem,” said the Bear by Heinz Janisch and Silke Leffler
The Other Way to Listen by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerfeld
The Listening Walk by Paul Showers