Our world is devoid of listening.
Yes, we listen to music, to talking heads, to TedX speakers.
We listen outside. We’ve come to love it. There’s something very safe about listening to what others have to say—about succumbing to the bombardment of lyrics and directives and seminars and countless other messages that influence our lives.
I don’t mean that kind of listening—we’ve gotten good at that (though it comes at a price). I mean deeply listening.
Deep listening means hearing the nagging pain in our bodies that tells us we’re working too hard, to the repetitive dreams that suggest a situation we’re in is smothering our souls. Deep listening means noticing the conversations we can’t escape—the ones where we keep saying the same things over and over again, but nothing seems to change.
The truth is that we avoid this kind of deep listening for more than one reason. We avoid listening because we’ve been taught not to—and because we’re afraid of what we might hear.
As a society, we’ve shut down our ability to hear our inner voices.
In the documentary Inn-Saei, Marti Spiegelman, a shaman and expert in human consciousness, theorizes that “the problem with our society is that the noise of the external world is muting the voice of the internal world.”
I live in Los Angeles. Needless to say, the noise pollution alone can silence the inner voice. But add that to the noise of billboards, radio, TV, and celebrity culture that condition our expectations for daily life, and there is very little space left for the voice of my soul.
This problem is so insidious that most people in our world today (at least in western society), aren’t even aware that there is an internal voice. Contemporary spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle have awakened mass consciousness through the simple recognition that there is a voice within us that is not our thoughts.
As a society, we have opted to silence our internal voice in order to get where we are today. Over the last couple of centuries, we have become a nation of workers, of producers, of highly effective users of time. Having coupled industrialization with technology, we can now accomplish more in a day than many humans in other nations accomplish in a week’s or a month’s time. We’ve become accomplished at accomplishing things. But it’s come at a cost: the silencing of our internal voices.
We know those nagging, pesky, internal voices: the ones that tell us we’re tired, that we don’t want to go to work today, that we shouldn’t have that third glass of wine. We ignore the dream that shows that us perhaps our marriage isn’t working. We suppress the anxiety that accompanies too much time in the car, running too many errands, accomplishing.
These voices in our internal worlds are longing to be heard. And I’m here to tell you that they’re just as magical and fun as the latest Kendrick album or the latest Game of Thrones episode. The problem is that we’ve silenced them for so long that we’ve almost lost the ability to interpret what they’re saying.
Every time we work too hard, too long, against the wills of our bodies, they give us messages. Every time we spend time with someone who drains us, the voice cries out. Every time we make a commitment because we want to please someone (at the expense of our integrity), the internal voices are shouting.
But beyond the expectations and conditioning of the world in which we love, there is a deeper reason we refuse to listen: we’re afraid of what we might hear.
We’re scared that our lives might be a scam. That our relationships might be over. That our jobs are soul-sucking. That all our efforts at accomplishing are superfluous. And guess what? They might be.
Two and a half years ago, I wasn’t listening either. My body and soul were screaming at me so loudly that everyone around me could hear the voices but me.
I was unhappily married, struggling with an autoimmune disease and just coming off a failed round of in-vitro fertilization. I was crying, raging, and in deep, deep grief and paralysis. My soul was screaming at me: it wanted me to change everything.
In the face of such a request, is it any wonder I didn’t want to listen?
Thankfully, I did. Very powerful healers helped me remember who I was. I stopped fertility treatment, got divorced and eventually quit my job to travel around the world and learn shamanic healing practices to help other people listen to their souls. (As I’ve helped others find their voices, I’ve continued to hone my ability to hear my own, as well as the voices of children, of nature and of entire organizations and communities. It is profoundly liberating.)
On personal and societal levels, our ability to thrive hinges on whether or not we commit to deeply listening. I fully believe that this is the frontier of our generation.
Indigenous people around the world are masterful at these practices—and as a result, they live harmoniously with nature, avoid many of the modern, nervous-system diseases of the west, and maintain healthy communities. In fact, many indigenous wisdom keepers believe that all mental illness is a result of soul sickness—of disconnection from our inner voices.
Thankfully, when we begin to listen to our internal voices, our lives change. Our bodies heal because we aren’t fighting their natural rhythms. Our minds heal because we aren’t overburdening them with constant work. Our souls are finally heard. And I can promise you this, our souls have come pretty rad things to say.
When we begin to listen to our internal voices, we become more sensitive to the voices of others, of children, of our colleagues and our planet. When we can acknowledge the existence and validity of these voices, we have no choice but to address them. Beyond healing our bodies, I believe deeply listening will heal our communities, businesses, schools and world.
Making the adjustment from external to internal listening isn’t easy. It’s a muscle—a habit. We must practice listening to the inside with as much diligence as required to train for a marathon, learn a musical piece, or change an eating habit.
Every day, we can practice tuning into the sounds, understandings and wisdom that indigenous cultures tap into with ease, but we in the western world have lost. The good news is that these practices—meditation, contemplation, creativity, ceremony—the wisdom of the sages around the world, are easily available to us now, if we only seek them out.
Still, it isn’t an easy transition. The radio and the news and the to-do list are loud.
So, just like we might wake up and head to the gym each morning, let’s practice listening. Start today—one minute of no radio, to TV, no pictures, no talking. Suppress the external noise and listen inside.
Close your eyes.
Take a breath.
I promise it will change everything.
Author Name: Jane Mayer
Author Bio: Jane Mayer is a shamanic healer and soul-based education visionary who is listening to still, small voices everywhere. Her work bridges indigenous wisdom practices and contemporary education, and she believes that when we deeply listen to our souls, the world will be transformed.
Link to social media or website: http://janeislistening.com