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Exquisite Listening

“The exquisite listener enters a trance-like state, deeply immersed in the present moment. There is an intense curiosity on not only what the listener is saying, but the deeper truths and meanings behind the spoken words. The listener’s only goal in that moment is to understand, as fully as possible, the speaker’s subjective reality.”


The above quote is from that great spiritual tome, The Journal of Financial Planning. Indeed, it is not surprising that my journey has taken me from hedge fund manager, to yoga teacher, to holistic financial life planner. Interacting with people is always an opportunity for deep spiritual learning. For when we interact with others from a place of separateness and judgement, we face our greatest challenges.  If, however, we can open to even a glimpse of other’s subjective reality, we can learn our greatest lessons. 


Joseph Goldstein writes about Mindful Listening in his book, Mindfulness. He notes that Right Speech, being thoughtful and measured about how we speak, is deeply connected to how we listen. Ideally, we listen to others without getting caught up in our own reactivity, and with an intention of compassion and lovingkindness. So easy to set the intention, yet so hard to do!!


Mindful Listening seems inextricably linked to patience. It takes time to be in the moment, present to others. How many of us conduct phone conversations with one eye (or both!) on our smartphones or computer screens? How many of us are busy crafting our response when others are speaking? Slowing down, being patient, is necessary to engage in mindful, exquisite listening.


It is just as important, and difficult, to slow down and take the time to listen to ourselves. Bari Tessler, the author of “The Art of Money: A Life Changing Guide to Financial Happiness,” recommends a body check-in when confronting a tricky money decision, as a way of gaining clarity and direction from our inner guide.


Take a few deep, slow breaths. Close your eyes, if this is comfortable for you. ….Become aware of how your body feels on the chair, how your feet feel resting on the floor. Notice sensations of movement and stillness. Observe without judgement…

When the desire to move at all arises, remind yourself of your commitment to sit and be present.

Notice any unpleasant sensation or discomfort that you want to alleviate by moving.

Become interested in the sensation even if it is unpleasant.

What are its dimensions? What does it feel like?

Is it changing as you observe it?

What is the quality of the attention you are bringing to your own discomfort?

Can you bring a soft, loving, tolerant awareness to this experience?

Remember, this isn’t about perfecting or changing anything. It is simply about being present.