Listening Is Good For Your Brain – Insights from the Wilderness #144

Listening Is Good For Your BrainFor years, science and spirituality have each claimed to have a better handle on the subject of reality. But once again, we are learning what the mystics have always known—–science and spirituality are really pretty much in agreement, they simply use a different language to talk about reality. This is especially true when scientists include quantum physics in the conversation.

For example, the great spiritual teachers have always taught the middlepath concept that truth can always be discovered on both sides of any issue——if we are willing to intentionally embrace the spiritual practice of conscious listening.

And this is where science and spirituality are now moving into agreement.

A recent scientific finding is linking dementia with loss of hearing. Scientists are discovering that when there is a loss of hearing it causes us to shut down active listening. In other words, we stop listening. We stop communicating with others. We begin to withdraw from the world. We shut down our brain——and these behaviors accelerate the onset of dementia.

The human brain is like a muscle—-we either use it or we lose it. Scientists tell us learning a new language, or learning how to play a musical instrument, or taking on a new hobby that requires intensive mental learning, can be effective in slowing the onset of dementia.

Spiritual teachers tell us one of the simplest and most effective ways to exercise and awaken the human brain is learning how to listen consciously. They remind us that very few people develop the skill or spiritual discipline to intentionally, and consciously, “listen” to another person.

Our ego loves to interrupt others when they are talking to us, we change the subject without acknowledging what the other person said to us, and it’s not uncommon for us to begin side discussions with other person when someone is talking to a group.

Our ego is so interested to tell our story or our interesting bit of information, we stop listening to what the other person is saying, and begin mentally rehearsing what we are going to say—when we interrupt them.

When we exhibit these kinds of behaviors, we are essentially shutting down our brain.

We have shifted from an engaged, mentally active listening process into an internal discussion with ourselves. Since we already know what we’re going to say——and if like us, the other person is talking to himself or herself instead of actively listening——then why bother saying anything at all.

In other words, when we interrupt another person while they are speaking, or when we  fail to acknowledge what the other person just said——or if the other person is doing the same to us——-there is no need for the conversation to continue because both the speaker and the listener are no longer present to one another. No one is listening! And if you listen carefully enough, you can actually hear their brains shutting down.

Spiritual Practices To Increase Conscious Listening

Here are a couple of spiritual practices that will exercise your brain and help you become an awakened, intentional, conscious listener.

First, never interrupt someone when they are speaking. Just listen. If they are someone who never stops talking to take a breath, or if they insist on interrupting you when you’re speaking, you might want to avoid them in the future, but in that moment simply use the opportunity to practice intentional, conscious listening——you may not learn much, but it will be good mental exercise for your brain.

Second, develop the practice of asking questions before you contribute your information to the conversation, and learn to wait at least five seconds after the other person has stopped talking before you begin.

Remember the acronym TORAN.

Take in the information.

Offer feedback as you listen…..nod your head, make sounds such as “uhuh”, “hum”, “wow”, “that’s interesting”, etc..

Reflect back what they said—–“so what you’re saying is___________”.

Always ask questions before you respond.

Never interrupt.

If you do these simple spiritual practices and avoid your ego’s internal dialog with itself, or interrupting the person speaking to you, your brain will thank you, and you will quickly become a person that others enjoy talking with.

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