Sensational Living®

November 2004
© 2004 by Bret S. Beall


Back when I was a healthcare management executive, I developed two talks that I gave in business environments. They were "Communication as a Management Tool" and "Respect as a Business Strategy." Nothing is ever done in isolation, and sure enough, these two talks had a number of points in common, not least of which was "listening."

I could devote this column to a discussion of how listening can make you a better manager or business person, but I'm not going to. Instead, I want to emphasize how different types of listening can actually make you a better human being in general! Really! Let's go through them systematically.

Listen to Other People

This is the simplest, most obvious type of listening, and it is amazing to me how few people actually practice listening to others. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, as I wasn't always the best listener. Still, having been instilled with good manners at an early age, I learned quickly that any behavior other than listening to someone who is speaking is rude, so I started to listen.

One of my favorite sayings is "It is better to remain quiet, and appear stupid, than to open your mouth and confirm it." Now, I don't mean to discourage class participation in schools, or to stifle sincere discourse, but with the advent of chat rooms and message boards on the Internet, I am disgusted by the prevalence of factless, baseless, unsubstantiated opinion. At least some people preface their ramblings with "I believe," but that in itself invalidates the broad acceptance and application of their ideas, as "belief" is the realm of religion rather than evidence-based science.

Listening to others has several benefits. First, it shows respect to the person talking; it's just plain ol' good manners! Secondly, the speaker feels good about your interaction. Thirdly, when you actually take the time to listen, you are able to respond intelligently and efficiently, which benefits both of you. Finally, you might actually learn something! The sum of these interactions is that there is love deriving from having listened … not romantic love, but a love of humanity.

Listen to Your Body

What do you do when you aren't feeling well? You either identify the symptoms that you have and self-medicate, or you share your identified symptoms with a medical professional and let them suggest a course of action. Either way, your body has shown you that something is wrong, and it's time to take care of whatever is wrong. However, are you aware that by the time you have full-fledged symptoms, you have actually overlooked what might be called "early warning signs" that would help you fight the problem before it becomes "full fledged."

Here's an example. The night before I was writing this column, I was feeling a bit odd. I'm not accustomed to feeling odd (and please don't send me any emails to the contrary!), but that's because I have been practicing monitoring my body for years. I felt my sinus itching. My throat was just the tiniest bit dryer than it should be. My eyes were a bit more tired than usual. I knew I had a cold virus trying to take hold. That allowed me to take action when it was still easy to fight the bug. This morning, I awoke as my usual perky, healthy self.

As someone blessed with generally excellent health, I don't have any dramatic tales of having listened to my body and saved myself from a life-threatening disease. But, I may have an example of where FINALLY listening to my body freed me from psychological blockages that eventually would have been life-threatening. This "freeing," in turn, allowed me to continue maturing as a human being!

For years, I had noticed an odd "tingle" in my abdominal cavity that came, went and moved around. It did not appear to be related to any physical ailment per the cursory examinations during my rare visits to MDs. About two years ago, my back became quite sore, and a new pain and soreness developed in my left arm. I tried two massages, and several visits to two chiropractors; the soreness would lessen, but it would never go away.

I knew that an earlier episode of back tightness was tied to fear, as I could actually feel my back seize up when I thought my finances were in ruin (it was a clerical error by my bank!). So, I knew there was a body-mind connection, and I since I believe the mind is the physical manifestation of the spirit, this means there is a body-mind-spirit connection. A discussion with my respected therapist provided concurrence. So, I moved toward meditation, and in an instantaneous insight, I knew I must forgive. I forgave the primary offender against me, and literally felt the tightness in my back dissipate within seconds! The other sorenesses remained, and so with each physical twinge in my arm or abdomen, I would move into meditation, and begin systematically forgiving other offenders (real or imagined!). Had my body not "gotten my attention," I don't know if I ever would have forgiven these individuals. I also don't know how many other organ systems in my body would have been impacted by the accumulating stress.

I think you can see the greater ramifications of being in touch with your body and listening to the subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes. Listening to your body is an exercise in loving yourself, respecting yourself enough to listen. The greatest ramification is enhancing your conscious connection to the Universe, the Divine!

Listen to the Universe

Before continuing, once again I'm going to draw the line between science and belief. Listening to others offers social and psychological benefits. Listening to your body yields physical health benefits. These are scientifically corroborated. Listening to the Universe, which I "can" argue is based on fact, is still a matter of personal belief and faith, as I cannot prove this to anyone else. I hope this honest disclosure engenders your trust, as I now proceed into personal belief.

This column was supposed to be presented last month, but I held back because of a "little voice." I'm not entirely sure "why" it was important to hold it back, except for one possibility. In the last month, I have finally recognized that I no longer need to "win." I can listen to others without feeling the need to countermand their position even when the evidence is overwhelmingly in my favor.

There is an amazing sense of peace and calm (and love for one's fellow man) that comes with giving up the need to "win," and to know that others are on their own Paths and must learn in their own ways. I didn't even realize this new perspective had become habituated until I sat down to write this column … and of course, I listened to the Universe, and you are reading the result.

You'll notice that I listened to a "little voice." The key word I want you to see is "little." As I have written before, I believe that everything happens for a reason (see http://www.god-dess.com/webhintsMar04.html). I will share another personal belief with you, based on experience: unpleasantness only happens when we have something to learn, and even then, the Universe wants the lesson to be as gentle as possible. As I look back at lessons throughout my life (with 20/20 hindsight!), I see a recurring pattern. I had many "easy" opportunities to learn and heal; these are what I call "whispers from the Universe." Sometimes the learning opportunities aren't quite so easy; these are "shouts from the Universe." Finally, if we have ignored (ie, not listened to) every opportunity from the Universe, we can have some really unpleasant situations (poor health, pain, and more); these are what I describe as "the Universe getting our attention with a 2x4!" Sure, that's a bit graphic, but you get the picture, and that was my goal. Pay attention to the "whisper," and your life will be MUCH easier. Learning that lesson years ago is what kept me from submitting this particular last month, and I am sure I have not seem the end of the ramifications of that decision.

Sometimes this Listening is easier said than done. To the best of my knowledge and experience, the best thing that you can do is to be "open" … you cannot Listen to what isn't being spoken, so this is a passive exercise, an activity of letting go of control, and receiving what you need to receive. It helps to be "calm," also; just this morning I was reading a back issue of Ann Arbor's "personal growth" publication, phenomeNews, and the editor reminded me that so many messages actually come through while we are showering! She mused about the strangeness of this, but I would argue that by focusing on our shower, with the water calming us, we automatically become more "open" … try it!

If we learn to Listen, not only to the Universe, but also to other people and to our bodies, we can save ourselves a lot of pain and grief. Furthermore, as I promised at the start, we will emerge as better human beings, for we will have heard the message and learned the lessons needed to mature as sentient beings, and all we had to do was Listen. And Love.

Are you Listening now?

Will you share with me your experiences with the three levels of listening? Or would you like some help learning to listen? Just reach out to me at 773.508.9208 or email me. I'm looking forward to listening to you!