LISTEN

Yesterday morning, I stepped outside and listened. I listened to the birds singing their morning chorus, I listened to the slow droning of the machinery in the field across from me, I listened to my footsteps as I slowly walked to the bottom of the garden. The crunch underfoot, the high-pitched intonations, the bass of the drone. A moment of presence.

Theory

The present moment is all we have, yet stress and to do lists and the mindless chatter in our brains takes our attention away from the present and into the past or future. If we don’t direct our attention it will go into autopilot, thinking, worrying and planning. Mindfulness helps us to cultivate awareness of the present moment, offering a rest from these autopilot traits and into a calmer state.

If we practice mindful listening on a regular basis, we will eventually find that it’s something we do naturally. This is because our brain continues to be malleable throughout our entire life, meaning that when we start something new and practice it, we can strengthen new neural connections in the brain.  This is called neuroplasticity! What’s exciting about neuroplasticity is it shows us that we can create healthy habits purely through practicing them!

Something as simple as mindful listening is a great place to start and can also be fun to do with your family.

Practice for grown-ups

‘Several times a day, stop and just listen. Open your hearing 360 degrees, as if your ears were giant radar dishes. Listen to the obvious sounds and the subtle sounds- in your body, in the room, in the building and outside. Listen as if you had just landed from a foreign planet and didn’t know what was making these sounds. See if you can hear all sounds as music being played just for you.’ (Bays 2011)

Practice for children

This activity is a great one to do outside. Get your child to make a fist with both of their hands, leaving their thumb open, get them to place their thumbs on either side of their head, to create two antlers. Get them to close their eyes and count as many different sounds as they can, raising one finger for every sound until their antlers are full. Recap on the sounds they heard in a minute.

Inspiration

Mindful by Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

“Mindful” by Mary Oliver from Why I Wake Early. © Beacon Press, 2005.

Books

Mindfulness on the Go by Jan Chozen Bays

The Art of Mindful Birdwatching by Claire Thompson

Mindful thoughts for Walkers by Adam Ford