Boldly existing outside the box through conscious living and constant learning.
“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” -Winnie The Pooh
“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” Winnie The Pooh
editors note: This post was inspired by the words of one of my favorite blogs here. Please check it out.
Hearing and listening are two entirely different actions. To hear is to simply perceive sound with the ear while listening is a conscious choice. Truly listening to another person requires concentration and single-mindedness in order to deduce meaning from words. Though hearing is something we do unconsciously as long as we are not hearing-impaired, listening with our hearts and minds inevitably leads us to learning, which in turn leads us invariably to Unboxed Living.
It seems to me that if we agree that listening to other people can and will result in the learning of new things and the expanding of our minds, the fact that listening is a lost art is a tragedy of epic proportions. We live in a world where we are bombarded with millions of sensory stimuli every second of every day. Our brains can only process a fraction of what noise is out there and it takes extreme focus to block out the distractions and focus in on a single string of thought.
To even further compound this fact of nature is the rate by which we subject ourselves to the ever-beckoning glow of screens, buttons, images, status-updates, and tweets of the social media juggernaut. If I wish to engage in conversation with you my words must compete with ever-evolving forms of media that have lead us to internalize and standardize multi-tasking as a form of communication. Texting, Facebook, Twitter, and instant messaging has replaced verbal, face to face communication and have altered our ability to connect with other people forever. What was once an intimate, valued, and integral part of the human existence has been reduced to incomplete sentences and emoticons.
So it seems we as a population have become accustomed to hearing but not listening to each other. What does this mean for us on our journey to expand our mind and Unbox our lives? What is lost when true, heartfelt listening is non-existent in our daily interactions? First, and most alarming to me, is that our opportunity for daily learning is narrowed even further and is often swept aside as we sling pudgy birds at even pudgier pigs. We skim through our interactions with our fellow humans like speed readers trying to digest the just of a work of art. The nuance of non-verbal communication, the complex nature of human psychology, and the opportunity for profound personal connection are destroyed in the Cliff Notes version of conversation.
Even as we narrow our scope of potential learning, we immediately discount the transformational influence a deep, honest, personal connection through conversation can have on ourselves and on others. From my own experience working in Africa I would go as far as to argue that the power of looking someone in the eye and connecting heart to heart has a greater impact than any building project or aid program I have ever seen. Human beings thrive when they are listened to, respected, and connected with other people in ways that nothing else can achieve.
The negative impact on our own personal journey of life is immense when we starve for human interaction. Without the sharing of ideas, opinions, thoughts and feelings through words and connection we will remain locked into our biased and limited mindset never breaking free from the boxes we live in. The ideals, values, and beliefs we hold so dear can never be strengthened without sharing them with others. When we ignore the profound influence of the simple act of truly listening we are downplaying its affect on our own ability to live Unboxed.
What can we do in our current technology-gorged society to try and regain some of the lost art of listening? The good news is there is hope for all of us. Just as we can train our minds to think in different ways, we can practice the act of true listening in order to find its power once again.
When connecting with people remove physical and mental distractions
It’s pretty simple. When you are conversing with someone don’t text, update your Facebook status, tweet, play games, check email, or do anything else except listen and talk with the person in front of you. This is especially hard in phone conversation but is even more important to do. Focus your mind on each word, the sound and cadence of the person’s voice, the subtle tones and unconscious movements that all make up profound interaction.
Realize the value of connections to yourself and the other person and place that value above your own ego
We all think we are pretty important and that what we have to say, check, or update is paramount to the continuation of the human race. It’s not. Whatever you think you have to do at that moment chances are it isn’t more important than validating what the person you are connecting with is saying and taking every opportunity to learn from their words.
Set aside specific time to nurture interpersonal connections
As stated earlier, face to face associations are often replaced by short, impersonal interactions and if we are not careful this can become the entirety of our exchanges. Even though is seems unnecessary, setting aside time to remove every other distraction from the equation and find a connection with another person can rejuvenate your spirit and create bonds that no amount of instant messaging will ever do.
When it comes down to it we can only take our Unboxed Journey so far independent from the rest of humanity. We really do rely on others to carry us beyond our own limited capacity for learning and growth. The understood limits of our human potential can be shattered when we tap into the power of true, uninterrupted, unencumbered heart, mind, and soul connection through real listening and communicating. With this tool we can expand our minds beyond their limits and find the true expression of the human condition present in our connections with others.
I firmly believe that without gathering as many views and opinions on any one thought, belief, or long-held value we can never really say it is who we are. When we choose to share our thoughts and feelings with others we are ensuring that what we hold true is really who we are and what we truly believe. Listening is our greatest tool in this pursuit and will be a skill and ally as we Unbox our lives even further.
All photos: taken by Tanner Colton all rights reserved