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Learning to Listen By Ilana Zaken

January 21, 2015

Photo by John Barulich

Photo By John Barulich

I have this wise friend who will frequently stop me in the middle of our conversations, usually when we’re talking about something important. Every time he stops me, this sentence follows:

“Okay, now say it again in your real voice.”

The first time he made that request of me I had absolutely no idea what that meant. My real voice? What is my real voice, if not the sounds coming out of my mouth right now?

The more I thought about it, the more it pissed me off. I caught myself, in every moment, in every conversation, stopping, slowing down, thinking, “Does this sound like my real voice?” I became obsessed with what my real voice was. I started to realize I had no idea what I sound like. I started to realize how often I opened my mouth and let words come out without hearing what I was saying, without listening for where I was coming from and what I was really trying to say. So many conversations were misconnections, talking to another person but not with another person. Making sound for the sake of making sound, to escape silence, to escape hearing the subtler sounds inside my head and moving towards me from the world around me.

I started to realize that if I wanted to know what I really sound like, if I wanted to use my real voice, I needed to shut up and listen. And really listen – not just take in the sounds that are pleasing to me and support my idea of what I want the world to sound like, but to hear everything around me. To listen is to pay attention. I stopped wearing my headphones on the subway because I can’t listen when I’m blocking out the world with sounds I like. It’s humbling, to say the least, to learn that after 27 years on this earth, I still haven’t learned to listen.

But I’m trying. The only way I can change the world around me is to change myself. I want to see a world where we listen to each other with love, with patience, with compassion. I need to start practicing listening, and hearing the messages from within and without that lead me closer to truth, closer to freedom, which might mean hearing things I don’t want to hear, bearing witness, and making room for that which makes me wriggle with discomfort. I might have to accept that the world isn’t only full of beauty and light, but that in order to experience true beauty, I also have to experience true pain and suffering to know how to offer love in all places.

The only way I can change the world around me is to listen deeply enough to use my real voice.

Join Ilana and explore the beauty and truth in your own voice at her Chanting Playshop February 1st (register here). Or, chant and flow in class with Ilana in New York and Brooklyn, plus, starting January 24th, in Blossoming Lotus Flow, our prenatal flow class for moms-to-be in New York (see schedule here).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2015 9:47 am

    I’m so happy I stopped and read this article. You are outstanding to me as I felt your meditative essence and courage as you gifted me. Mystical and loving.

  2. Danny Giannuzzi permalink
    January 21, 2015 11:48 am

    Beautiful read. I admire your outlook so much. I wish I was in nyc to do yoga with you : )

  3. kimberleigh permalink
    January 23, 2015 8:22 pm

    Ilana, this spoke to me. Everyday, with people I think I know very well and with those I don’t think I know at all, I try to tell myself to listen not only with my ears but with my whole self. I am always glad when I do. Not,like you said, because everything I hear is easy to hear but because everything I hear is life itself.

    Thank you, always, for sharing yourself my friend.

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