The lost art of listening

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Photo by Juri Gianfrancesco

Listening is a dying art. People don’t listen anymore; it is nobody’s fault, of course, but the essence of being a human is the art of listening.

Language (the act of listening specifically) is one skill that sets us apart from other forms of life. We are ‘superior’ in our pseudo-dominant perceptions but the reality is that we are just another species. There is no difference between us and any other living organism – we all function the same way. There is a point A – life, and point B – death, all that what lies in between is subjective but not affirmation.

We have succeeded in ‘encroaching’ the planet, made the entire place our home – we live where we desire. Science and technology have fathomed the impossible. Neither are we stopping nor is there any hint of oppression. A setback is precedented by a breakthrough; a failed experiment is forwarded to global potent technology. We, essentially, take small steps but as the times pass the distance being covered is reaching a critical threshold.

Language is the fundamental of our success.

The fact that we could share ideas, thoughts and work in large numbers, keep records, transfer knowledge and skills is nothing short of an evolutionary miracle, yet we take communication for granted. Conversations are the true essence of being alive.

Modern society is inhumane. Industries, factories, products, facilities, jobs, career, security, plans – terms which we created to ease our survival became the benchmark for stress and mental breakdowns. Individuality is appreciated. Social media and the Internet work on the musing of singularity. They turn you into an asset – a consumer who likes the latest Instagram post and watches countless youtube videos and buys stuff with superficial needs and can digitally access relationships. This is how we are designed.

I am not an extremist.

I enjoy what we have right now more than anybody I know. The Internet is my playground and the world at my fingertips. Then at times, I wonder, why did we even need this.

Wasn’t eating what nature presented, living in mud houses, getting high and dancing around a fire as a community enough? Why did we need an iPhone? All of us are going to die one day. It wouldn’t matter what we achieve and what we don’t. It is all just a dent on this meaningless timeline.

We have to live but the only truth is that we will die, and that life is a lie.

Life as a human is a plethora of experiences and stories. The fact that I am sitting in my room, using a digital device to convey my heart out is phenomenal. Communication is the key. Talking is important, but listening more important.

Listening with intent is the core of a successful bond. Good relationships are those where two people communicate. It is essential to do so. Otherwise, we derive meanings from entropy, and we are pretty good at it. How we find faces on walls, we find meanings in conversations lost in translations.

Each one of us is subject to every human fortune or tragedy – there is no discrimination at such. Rich, poor, color, race, sadness transcends way beyond boundaries. This is where we connect as a species. We feel the same way.

Of course, talking is important to tell your story, share your perception. And talking makes us feel good, and what makes us feel good, helps release endorphins, makes us feel happy, is potentially addictive. We work like a dog. Positive reinforcements are the butter to our bread.

It is good to feel good. Who doesn’t desire an eternal high on happiness, heck I do! There is no selfishness associated, people may judge you selfish, but what do they know?

You should talk – talk your heart out.

Empathy!

Empathy is our instinct. Feeling sad for the dog on the leash trying to let loose, for our comrade who got cheated on in his 10-year long relationship, for our friends when they feel blue – empathy is innate to us.

Modern social set-up along the amount of information and varieties of emotional variety renders us flat. It deadens the life within; anesthesia to our human-nerves.

What do we do? How do we get out of this? Because no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape this beast. We can’t. I can’t help but wonder myself escaping to a forest, getting rid of my capitalist desires and spending the rest of my life with butterflies, rain, and foraging fell fruits and feasting on termites. But…

Empathy is a practice.

Empathy needs to be practiced every day. It has now become a conscious dilemma to instigate ourselves in the wanted effort to give. Sharing what little we have. Offering what little we have. Empathy is a practice.

Listening is empathy.

You have told your story to tens of your friends. Your Instagram followers know how you lost your beloved dog, but maybe, just maybe one of your friends couldn’t get the opportunity to speak – to share what he felt, never got comfortable enough. Maybe, just maybe.

When was the last time you listened to somebody? When did you try to understand what the other person was saying, without giving thought to your own thoughts, putting your battles aside and considering someone else’s for a while! Pause and ask yourself. Because the universe works on the laws of mathematics. One way or another, the total has to be zero. If you create a mountain here, you must’ve dug up a giant hole in the ground. It is all in the balance.

Listening maintains balance. When you are balanced, you start projecting energies which are balanced, that attract the most balanced experiences, people. Balance is important. Balance!

Call somebody today. And just ask them how they are doing, what is happening in their lives, even if it doesn’t interest you at all, but if you really value that person, this is how you start practicing listening. Silence is golden.

Practice!

Practice!

Practice!

One day at a time, one person at a time, one moment at a time.

Keep reminding yourself to practice empathy. Life is meaningless but emotions make all the difference. Listen to people.

What happens if you listen?

Don’t listen to solve a problem, listen just for the heck of it. Even if we tried our best, we can never understand how the other person feels. There is no scale for emotions. No standard unit of sadness. Everyone has unique thresholds. My heartbreak may be an iota compared to a little girl whose ice cream just crashed to the ground. We don’t know. We can’t know.

You cannot solve anybody’s problem. They need to figure it out for themselves. They need to find the answers, stumble to asking the right questions.

Don’t be a problem solver, be an enabler. Enable the other person to solve his personal trauma, be the catalyst in their expressions, if they feel happy, make them feel happier if they are sad, ease out the pain, be an enabler and not a guru.

I am no teacher, I know nothing, but I am dead sure that I know how it feels – I know the physical pain in the chest when your heart breaks, I know the sound of sadness, I know the eyes of solitude, I know the language of dissolution, I have been sentenced to the cage of my mind, I have lost people, I have lost myself. I know how it feels!

Be an enabler!

When you start speaking, you dress your thoughts. My words may come with a crown of thorns and yours may be a fragrant colorful garland, and both of us may mean the same thing. Our perception is unique to only us. We can’t understand anybody.

Listening to somebody with intent enables them to be themselves. Understand what they are saying, discover words they need to use, put events in a perspective, draw the lines, tell their story, dress up their thoughts – craft an identity. It is like cooking a dish. You won’t know how it tastes, or if namak kam hai ya zyada, in your thoughts. You need to get up and cook it to know. And you enable the other person to cook their dish, help them realize what needs to be changed, make them understand their feelings.

Misunderstood feelings have the worst implications. Once an emotion is decoded, you give it a tag, you find people with similar tags and you realize you are not alone, which enables you to understand yourself and become a better version of yourself.

Listening is an art, and it is dying. If it dies out, so will the joys of being a human. Try to listen to your friends, give them space, have patience, take them to their favorite pizza place, go to your chai-spot.

Listening is an art. Art takes practice. Practice empathy.

I listen by making music that you can meditate to. Here is one such song; play it, close your eyes and let it guide you to yourself. Listening to music helped me with my fear of flying.

I hope it moves you to the change you are seeking.

Kya Baat Jo Benaqaub Ho – Saby Singh

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