Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Deep Listening

It has been my pleasure to sit with Thich Nhat Hanh on several occasions. Often when he rings the bell at the beginning of a practice, he will say something like, "Let the sound of the bell invite you into stillness and deep listening."

For a long time, I did not know what he meant by "deep listening." I thought perhaps I was supposed to be on the alert for subtle sounds within my body. Or perhaps he was referring to the "still small voice" within. Over years of practice, however, I have decided that what Thay is talking about is synonymous with "mindfulness." It means having a thought, and actually knowing that we are having that particular thought. Then it means knowing how that particular thought leads to, perhaps, an emotional sensation in the body.

During our daily life, we have a lot of external distractions. When we sit in mindfulness practice, we are shutting down these externals and turning within. We may still be aware of the external things, such as sounds or temperature, yet we now experience them in a new way, knowing that we are experiencing these events as they occur. Furthermore, this experience takes place from a place very deep within us. These experiences are always available to us, if we listen deeply enough.


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