What can we truly trust? When we were small children, we listened to our parents, and trusted them when they told us everything was going to be okay, we believed them and then we started to grow up. The world became more complicated, we gained knowledge and experience, we started to establish our independence especially if we were lucky enough to have parents whose goal was to raise self-reliant children. We started to ask questions about the world and we moved from a state of certainty, simplicity and safety to having to face the real world of incomplete information.
No one sets out to lie to you, a child can only understand simple things like good and bad, it is just that as you learn more about the world the less you know about the world, you realise the limits of your awareness and our knowledge of what we do not know increases. You learn that the world is full of illusions, even your base senses are not truthful, your sense of sight is only an approximation of the world around you, it is an interpretation that your mind makes and it can be quite different from how other people view the world. We have blind spots in our vision as well as our knowledge, there are things that are beyond science, even in mathematics that tries to be so precise and logical, there are limits. Every time a mathematician declares that something is infinite, they are declaring they do not know or fully understand something. Even in the situation of the false and simplified model of the world that is mathematics we find that the world is fundamentally unknowable by its very nature, it is a feature not a bug.
How do we find truth in such world, how do we know what to listen to, how can we trust ourselves to know the truth, the true nature of things, when reality can be so twisted by the view we are raised with, by the society we are born into which itself was created by all the members of our community and their own misconceptions, false beliefs and history. In a world where everyone believes the earth to be flat, the crazy person is the one who believes it is round and who would choose to be crazy even if they were right, there are horrible costs to be paid for being out of alignment with your society, people have been burnt at the stake for believing something to be true or simply for being too knowing.
Luckily there is one guide which is always on your side, that is never biased or blinded by ideology, that is always honest and speaks without self-interest. Even scientists and mathematicians recognise that the truth is beautiful which is in stark contrast to their normal external focus of objective evidence, that shows that they are human after all, that we are by nature not inert observers, that we cannot help but be human observers and as such our humanness affects what we observe. Even just the soulless act of observing can affect quantum behaviour, by observing the path of electron you change the behaviour of an electoral, you force it to choose one physical reality instead of existing in quantum uncertainty as a probability wave. The electron “knows” that it is being observed and that changes its behaviour.
And if we can affect an electron by observing it, imagine the effect of observing yourself, by listening to yourself, you affect your own behaviour when you are aware and it is available to you at any moment, it is in your control. It can be extraordinary how much we do not observe ourselves, how we can ignore our internal senses, if you are aware of your thirst it should be impossible to become dehydrated and yet so many people need to be told to drink more water. We tie ourselves up in knots, we become distracted by the past and future, we become focused on the external world, we worry what people think of us when we are not even sure what we think of ourselves, we do not listen to ourselves.
Though it is available to answer and inform us at any moment, we can choose to listen to our bodies at any time, what we are feeling, where there is tension, what thoughts we are having and once we start listening, we can then compare our current state to how we have felt in the past. We can observe what affects our actions have on that state, we can see how exercise, our diet, the amount of sleep we get and even how other people change our moods. There is literally a lifetime of information available to us, there is the choice to act as your own scientist whose sole passion is the experiment of your life, and you have the opportunity to restart the experiment at any moment. You can change the variables of your life situation however you choose, you can spend the day practising loving kindness and see immediately how it changes your own internal world. You can try the experiments of finding the lesson in everything that happens to you, taking full responsibility for everything that happens or doing just one thing that makes you life situations better or moves you towards your life goal, these are all testable hypothesizes that you can test by observing and listening to yourself.
Like anything you practice, with time you will become more skilled at being a scientist (who happens to be the test subject as well), you will become a better observer and listener, you will hear more and become more sensitive. You will find that the body and mind has massive amount of information to give you, and with information comes realisation, your knowledge will grow and your confidence in your actions will increase as you become more aware of their effects. If you know something to be true, it becomes impossible to act as if they were not, if you know how bad a short-term greedy action will make you feel in the long term, it becomes impossible to act badly, if you know loving action creates love in your own life, how can you not act in such a manner. If you know that treating your body with respect creates a body that has your respect, how can you act otherwise.
What we are cultivating is becoming the observer rather than being immersed in the role of our ego, by not being caught up in the drama, we are able to direct our actions, like when we are watching a horror movie and you find yourself saying, “Do not go into that haunted house,” or “Do not split up,” when we observe we are able to give ourselves that direction and warning, but we are also able to see the story from the other actors point of view, we are able to see the drama that is happening to them. Spoiler alert, it is almost certainly different from the drama going on in your head, and that is the trouble with egos, all they do is think it is all about them, they personalise everything, it is their inherent distortion of thinking and only you as an observer can see it.
That is what the act of listening is, and you can start doing so at any point, first to yourself as you are always available for practise and then later you get to give that gift to others. It might seem selfish to serve yourself first but how do you listen to others if you do not know how to listen to yourself. How can you hear yourself if you have a head full of voices that you are not even aware of, as the airlines advise, you put your own air mask on first so that you can help others, and it can be so difficult to do as the very voices that you are trying to become aware of will distracted you, they will tell you that you are being greedy with you attention, you should be helping other, you should be spending time with your family not being self-indulgent.
However that is just the ego trying to save itself, never forget, you can only help from a position of strength, and that strength needs to build first. There is never a perfect time to do so, life will never magically give you the time unless you make it, you have to choose to take the time, whether it is five minutes sitting and observing your thought or being mindfully when you are walking. And we do this so that we can turn up and be present for others, so that we can fully listen to others and give others our strength and help others with what is important for them and not what we think is important for us to tell them. And that is the ultimate point of listening it is to give others that gift, as by doing so we create something incredible, a moment of connection, and the gift of being truly listened to, and is that not what we all really want?