Mindfulness is a kind of non-judgmental awareness we bring into every moment. To live more mindfully, consider keeping your awareness trained on the sounds you hear throughout the day. Attention will wander, but when the mind is quiet, we become sensitive to an extraordinary range of sounds from the thudding of the heart to the distant honking of geese passing overhead. The incessant clamor of thought can be deafening… and deadening. The noise can be so persistent, we my remain aware of little else but of the din we call thinking.
Deep listening can be an entryway to peace. Listen to the sounds that come into your awareness as if you were listening to music, without trying to identify or judge the sounds you are hearing. Simply allow them in and let them go. Remain open. Listen without discrimination, without craving for "pleasant" sounds, without aversion toward "unpleasant" sounds. Listen without the filters of judging, identifying, or conceptualizing. See if you can sit with bare attention to the soundscape for the next 3 to 5 minutes.
With awareness, you will notice how the mind secretes thought after thought moment by moment. As you hear thoughts arise in the mind, simply listen to them as part of the general noise. We listen to our own thoughts as sound. By learning to listen without engaging thoughts, without censoring, rejecting, or being carried away by them, we can maintain balance of mind.
Listening in this way, we cultivate curiosity, openness, and compassion toward ourselves. If a negative and conditioned thought arises, for example, we can observe it, its valence (whether positive, negative, or neutral), feel its emotional charge, and the concomitant sensations that may arise within the body. To observe without engaging or reacting to the sound we call thought is the practice.
Listening in this way, we cultivate curiosity, openness, and compassion toward others. To listen deeply and without judgment is a beautiful gift we can give another. In this practice, the speaker is the focus of our attention. We maintain presence, enjoying how they speak- how they gesture, the timbre of the voice, the inflection, the pauses, how the eyes move. We listen like the poet Whitman who tells his beloved: "loose the stop from your throat, not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best, only the hum I like, the hum of your valved voice." We listen with empathy and sojourn with them wherever it is they wish to go- even if it is to a hellish realm of darkness, ignorance, fear, or anger. With practice, we learn to hold the light and can shine this light on the darkest recesses of their minds.
We listen without judgment, no matter how unskillfully they may be communicating. We hold the light, remaining curious. With practice, we can help them identify the need behind the words. He says he feels criticized, for example. Is he feeling anxious, frustrated, angry? Is he needing understanding, acknowledgment, recognition? She says no one is listening. Is she feeling hurt, lonely, sad? Is she needing connection, a felt sense of belonging, inclusion? This is a love practice.
To live mindfully is to live artfully with a deep reverence for the gift of this existence.