Reflections Thoughts

What does it mean to listen?

I finished the chapter in See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love by Valarie Kaur about listening. It got me thinking: What does it truly mean to listen?

To not only hear the words being said but to feel the emotions present—and simultaneously hidden—in the infinite moments of our lives.

As a podcaster and documentary filmmaker, asking questions is a fundamental skill that I wield daily. But to excavate the stories and emotions of those before me, I must listen to their words, feelings, and emotions. To what is not being said. To the tension or electricity in the room.

But I must also be present to my body, mind, and spirit. Am I tense or loose? Am I thinking about what needs to be said? Maybe I have entered into the world of judgment, telling myself how much better I am than them or how awful I am in comparison.

What if the most potent form of listening is the suspension of judgment? To stoke curiosity and wonder like a dying fire in the frozen dawn. So we can all come around the fire and find rest.

It’s one thing to listen to someone else, but what about listening to the voice within? The spark of an idea, a thought for a new future, a dream, a direction. Listening to ourselves requires three simple yet challenging actions:

  1. Get quiet.
  2. Discern our voice from the cacophony of noise within and around us.
  3. Pay attention.

I’ll take it one step further: What do you do with what you hear? Could it be that action, actually doing something as a result of what we heard, is the ultimate expression of our listening?