Friday, July 23, 2010

Conscious Listening (Right Brain)

One way of listening is "Reactive Listening." This is ego-based listening, or left brain. When we are listening to someone and we are unconsciously judging, comparing and evaluating, it is a way to hold the ego identity in place. It helps us form opinions, which helps the ego feel more real. You may remember from the 2nd blog entry, when we form an opinion just for the sake of opinion (not associated with a decision or action), then we are in the left brain, or the ego.

The other way is "Conscious Listening." This is soul-based listening, or right brain. It is a purposeful way of listening with the intention of understanding, relating, or learning something new (either about ourselves or about someone else). By focusing our attention on suspending the inner commentary, we enter into the "real" (instead of the constructed reality of the ego/left brain). This reality is life-giving. It will feel different. It is sustaining, and offers the promise of real connection and unexpected outcomes versus predictable outcomes based on our past.

I tried this recently with my husband:

As we sat together on our day off, I suspended my habitual way of conversing. Normally I would comment on problems to solve, stuff to do, and scheduling questions, etc. I noticed these thoughts (instead of speaking them as they came in), and brought by attention back to the moment. If a thought pulled me into the past or the future, I didn’t go with it. Instead, I focused on what was happening right then in the moment.

The empty discomfort turned to spaciousness. It felt good. We unexpectedly ended up listening to music, and dancing for 4 hours! My energy picked up. It felt spontaneous and alive. By letting go of our habitual way of relating to each other, unexpected ways of connecting became available. You could call it “soul inspired.”

It’s worth it to travel through the discomfort of letting go of a “left brain based” conversation and enter into the unknown waters of a “right brain based” conversation.

Action: Try Conscious Listening this week with someone, and see how it feels.

Note: Reactive and Conscious Listening is drawn from Shifra Hendrie, Living a Miraculous Life.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Shifting awareness to the Right Brain

When I first started trying to shift my focus to my right brain (in the first weeks of this experiment), it felt a little disorienting.  I was so used to identifying myself through my left brain (where the ego resides): a constant commentary running through my mind - discussing, comparing, judging, reminding me of things I need to do. 

When I would consciously try and shift to my right brain (by literally imagining it - focusing my attention on the right side of my head), I would get a slight headache.  It felt like a weak muscle needing to strengthened.

Another specific way to practice this is to shift your visual field from a narrow focus on specific objects in your field of view, to a "wide lens" field of view (peripheral vision).  I recommend trying this while in motion, such as walking, and not just in a sitting position or during meditation.  This exercise quiets the left brain, and activates the right brain - and is particularly helpful in making a quick shift during high activity, when the left brain would normally be dominant.

As I did this regularly throughout my day, it felt odd.  I felt kind of "blank" in my mind.  Instead of feeling good, my left brain immediately put its judgement on it to try and gain control back.  It would say things like, "this is boring, maybe I'm depressed, I won't be effective if I have a quiet mind, YOU NEED ME!!"

So right now it's about practice and noticing - lots of practice and noticing, so that the ability to consciously "switch platforms" becomes strengthened.