Over the years, I perfected the art of listening and recently, I have watched it decline. Watching all my efforts go down the drain was extremely painful and this can be applied to my ability to focus and concentrate too. Although, we look to grow and evolve but this does come at a cost and this is what I like to discuss with you today.
If you had put me in a room and my only thing was to listen, I used to interrupt someone until they had finished what they had to day. In recent years, I have seen this slowly diminish and now I interrupt when it is convenient for me.
Whenever I would be conversing, you would always find me mindfully listening and I found great joy in it. Listening is an easy way to feel the sense of the observer within you. So it was always a way to continue my meditation throughout the day and it provided fulfillment in my life.
I noticed that whenever I would interrupt or share my views straight away without thinking, I would leave a place feeling more tired and exhausted. Also, I would feel that the person I was talking to will probably feel that this wasn’t a worthwhile conversation.
I am always open to answering a question. So if asked anything, I would take the time to respond. However, in recent times, it was like I must share something otherwise, I would be irrelevant or people will go further into misinformation and maintain misguided views. Letting people be as they are has been a challenge.
A true conversation lies in the listening. It is empowered with the attention of listening. It is the silent observer that catches the nuances of what somebody says. If I am thinking about what to say in the next second, how can I be truly listening? So the art of a real conversation is when we take turns to converse our views and opinions. We take in what each person is saying and truly analyze it, not just from our perspective but mainly for the perspective of the speaker.
Books, Talks or Podcasts – the duration or pages matter
I listen to spiritual talks or podcasts regularly and I am an avid reader. Before, if you put a one hour or three hour talk for me, I could sit and listen and give my attention to it. Yes, my mind would drift now and then but I was able to concentrate for the most part. If you gave me a 1000 page book, I would be able to consume that. I love the longer talks and larger books because they give the necessary background that enhances the topic or concept discussed. The context that is added because time isn’t an issue allows the ideas/concepts to be clear and elucidated.
However, with the advent of social media, our concentration spans seem to be lessening day by day. We watch 10-30 second videos and call ourselves educated and informed. Before, it took us a decent 250-500 page book to be informed or a series of 2 hour talks but today, we don’t consider that necessary. When I listen to a 5 minute talk, I do not feel fulfilled at all or feel I have gained anything special. As easy as it was for my mind to concentrate on those 5 minutes, it was just as easy to let go of whatever I have learned in those 5 minutes. Without full context, we probably will not allow anything to become experiential.
I have recently felt that we must be very clear with our language, we should minimize our words only to maximize the understanding. But it doesn’t matter how long we talk for, or how much we write, it is about the clarity of the message. For anything to be clear, we need to explain it fully. For anyone to understand our views, we need to literally spell out how we got there.
Research – What is that again?
Today, our research is ‘Google it’ instead of let’s read or learn about it from experts in that field. For me, research is about getting a few or more books to understand any topic completely.
Nowadays, we read a few articles and suddenly, we find people on social media pretending to be experts on the matter. You will probably find a few social media influencers who will talk about mental health but have minimal understanding about what it is or have not gone through any mental health issues. Those people that have studied it, got degrees and are well-versed on the whole topic, they are not even consulted when these influencers share their ‘tidbits of wisdom’. This can be applied to any subject today. It is just a matter of reading a few articles and now we are completely enlightened on that subject. Who has time today to read a few books? Unfortunately, we think that these articles alone are enough to feel informed but this is not enhancing humanity at all, in fact, it is to the detriment to the community around us. I noticed this within myself and that is when I realized something is not right. We should be informed through a variety of mediums, like books, articles, research studies, and talk. Information overload is better than information minimization. Ignorance is certainly not bliss.
What to do next?
I have now started to read more books and listen to longer talks. I am constantly looking at how to increase my concentration, not just the longevity but also the intensity too. This requires work and effort. When someone is speaking, I need to learn to keep quiet and listen without interruption from my side. When I am reading a book, I must read a few pages without looking at my phone to increase my concentration and focus. Listening to a long talk on any subject, and reflecting on what is being said completely. Listen to panel discussions and the variety of opinions and thoughts.
A lot must be done to reclaim our focus and concentration, to become informed of a subject and most of all to have real conversations. Frankly, I must take the time to efficiently know something. In fact, efficiency is not about lessening the time to know something, efficiency is about increasing the quality of information and discussing valuable insights with others when necessary.