Friday, November 28, 2014

"Watching the clouds float across the sky."

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time."--John Lubbock

     "Listening is a skill we are in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload." writes Seth S. Horowitz, PhD. a neuroscientist whose work in comparative and human hearing, balance and sleep research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and NASA. We need solitude.
     In a world of wonderful high tech advances and instant communication, no one appears to be effectively hearing or listening to each other at all. Have we forgotten how to listen? Effective listening requires attention. Listening requires our focus on the speaker. When we are incapable of focusing our attention on one task our minds turn to our self-to me, me, me- again. We are only listening to the mental dialogue in our heads. "What should I make for dinner?" "I hope traffic's not bad on the way home." "Is there a good movie on television tonight?" "Did I check my email this afternoon?" Our inner chatter is endless and prevents us from placing our full attention on the person speaking. Our thoughts are like clouds. Imagine each thought cloud that appears in your mind while you are having a conversation. Learn to recognize and acknowledge your thought clouds, let them float past and shift your attention back to the speaker.
    Solitude not only allows us a brief respite from the noise and demands of daily existence, it allows us the opportunity to focus our attention on listening to our inner voice. One thing constant stimulation and multi-tasking is taking away from the current generation is the ability to focus. Being present is an important component of focus. How many times have we taken a cell phone photo of an event we are supposed to be enjoying in the moment? Are we listening to our friends excited comments about a concert or just typing highlights of a conversation on social media? Or as psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck stated,  
   "You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time." 
 When we practice our ability to concentrate on any task, we develop the ability to focus on hearing what others are saying. Solitude allows us to begin with listening to ourselves.