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The tongue has just one customer, the ear!

He sat straight. His head, neck and his backbone were aligned like a gas balloon popping up in the air from a cylindrical chest. His slit-like eyes were slanted towards his ears. The ears perked out and you could see tufts of hair inside his ear like grass cushion on a bird’s nest. This man could listen to your complaints without opening his own mouth or moving an eyelash. He could exhaust you with his steadfast listening. Finally, when you were done with your speaking, he would close his eyelids gently like window curtains, open his thick goldfish lips and get up from his chair with nothing more than a muffled yawn. He was given charge of handling grievance in a large company. People who met him would say, just talking to him brought such relief. It was like therapy. You were grateful that you were simply listened to.

Listening is a billion dollars business. Psychotherapists make a fat pay packet just listening to their stressed out patients. Politicians employ experts to listen to their voters. Businessmen conduct elaborate surveys to listen to their consumers. Priests make money by making sure that God listens to prayerful petitions!

A scholar of philosophy once wrote to me claiming that one can close one’s eyes but cannot close the ears. He meant that the visual stimulus could be interrupted, but you cannot switch off the audio input pouring into your ears. I do not quite agree with his views. You can actually close your ears. If you choose to do so. One can listen selectively or not listen at all when one is preoccupied with something. You can engage in selective listening when you listen from your prejudices or desires. This kind of listening narrows down the attention span of the listener. Selective listening makes you very distracted, particularly when you don’t get to hear what you like to hear. Take this real life example:

A young mother is coaching her kid for an upcoming kindergarten interview:

‘Tell me, son, what is the colour of an apple?’

The son thinks, scratches neck (own) and speaks out loudly, WHITE!

The mother barely listens, and shouts back at her son, ‘Repeat after me, APPLE IS RED.’

‘NO’, protests the son as be bites thumb (mother’s) APPLE IS WHITE’

Tell me, says the exasperated mother, ‘How is apple white?”

The kid responds like a cricket umpire, raising his index finger, ‘If you cut the apple in two, is it not white?

There is an alternate way to listen. This is to listen without any agenda or pre-judgement. If you have ever listened with your whole being to anyone, you are likely to experience something magical. You have to listen without resistance to what the speaker is saying. Even more importantly you have to listen to what the speaker is not saying. You will experience that your ego-centre as the listener completely dissolve in a wave of energy. You will realize that you are listening simultaneously to many things: the speaker’s voice, the calling of birds in the background, the steady drone of traffic on the road outside, the soft whir of the air conditioner—everything that is in the foreground as well as in the background.

This kind of listening will bring about a transformation within yourself as well as inside the person you are listening to. From the depth of your attention, you will be able to figure out whether the person speaking to you is telling you the truth or lying to you. Nurtured by your attentive listening, the speaker will not be under pressure to distort her message to suit your desire. This is very useful in a boss-subordinate relationship. Imagine that a subordinate feels no pressure and feels free to express herself truthfully. It is likely that the boss-subordinate conversation will be more authentic and effective.

Listen then from the core of your silent being. When you listen thus, you will be directly in contact with the source of communication. You will get deep insight and clarity in whatever you hear. When you choose to speak from the source of shared silence, your words will ignite the heart of the listener like the north-star that illuminates the constellation of the night.

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