Monday, January 02, 2006

Just Listening

Just Listening

It's strange to wake up to the chirping of birds here in the city, even in the suburb where I live; but there was the pleasant chirping of birds outside my window this morning, and I vowed to take more notice of such things.

Pure listening is such a beautiful thing, if we only know how to do so. It is something that is not easy to come by because the moment we hear a sound--could be something someone said, could be music from next door or something from the TV--we immediately form an opinion ("that's a stupid idea", "I hate Britney Spears", "not another reality TV show").

Try listening to something without judging, without forming a mental reaction; you'll find that it's so very difficult. Listening always come with a reaction. Even when we are listening to something neutral, like say instrumental music, something in the mind or body always stirs--the memory of a former love, the scenes of childhood or a deep longing for a certain time or place.

Pure unreactive listening, if we care to cultivate it, can be a wonderful act of meditation--a portal into that inner state of bliss that some of us find so hard to attain. To quote Krishnamurti, "To listen there must be an inward quietness, a freedom from the strain of acquiring, a relaxed attention...It is only in listening that one hears the song of the words".

Where does this "strain of acquiring" come from? It arises from the ego. When we attempt to listen without reacting, we'll realise how shackled we are by the reaction that comes from the ego--it can never shut up! It has an opinion on everything, it's that mental static that I talked about in an earlier blog entry.

Question: Isn't this mental reaction what we would normally call intelligence? If we don't react to things, are we no different from a stupid person?

Now, "stupid" is a word that is full of judgement. Stupidity is relative. We are only stupid relative to someone else. In a way, everyone can be stupid, depending on the situation and circumstance we find ourselves in. There's always someone smarter than us in some area of human undertaking. It could be anything--mathematics, golf, driving, business or politics--doesn't matter, we can always find an area which we can be called "stupid".

But why then do we react so sensitively when someone tells us we are "stupid"? It is because the ego is threatened. The ego attaches to an image of itself as being "smart" in certain areas which it relies upon for an identity. It is also our ego that makes us quick in labelling other people as "stupid" because it is an easy way of reinforcing its image as being "smart".

If you are a bank teller, and you make mistake with in the amount of money that your customer is withdrawing and he or she scolds you as being "stupid", obviously you'll feel hurt and angry. You feel hurt because you attach your importance, identity and image to the job that you are doing. To be called incompetent in your job is a great diminishment of the ego. So you take offense to the word stupid, even though if the same remark is made about your ability in some other area, such as cooking or golf, you'll probably just laugh it off.

Now let's go back to the question. Will you ever be less intelligent than you are now if you listen without reacting? Will you ever lose a brilliant idea simply because you listen intently without judging? Certainly not. In fact, you'll even become more intelligent, because now your mind can operate clearly without the noise of the ego. You are able to let sound seep deeper into the inner recesses of your mind, where the true receptacle of creativity resides.

The ego is like an over-zealous secretary outside your door who prejudges who you see and what calls you receive; and not only that, she colours what you are about to see and hear with an unsolicited comment. What you get is not pure and pristine input anymore. It is already tainted by the filter and reaction of your ego secretary.

So listen: Allow sound and words to gently seep deeper into your consciousness. In that allowing, awareness and insight arises. Take note of it. Allow the ripples of the ego to rise and subside.

Allow it.

Yes, sounds come, sounds go, like the gentle lapping of waves on the shore. You'll be surprised that beneath the surface of reactive noise, such deep wisdom resides within you, such infinite creativity, and you'll never be so unwise as to take offense to the word "stupid" anymore.