Try This: Mindful Listening

5 min Article Meditation & Mindfulness
Once you have awareness of what you are hearing outside and within, mindful listening encourages letting go of distractions.
Try This: Mindful Listening

In today’s busy world, staying present and aware is as difficult as ever. Sometimes, we have to tune out the world around us just to stay focused on anything at all. But when that happens, we can miss out on the beauty and nuance of what’s happening in the present moment — and we don’t pick up on personal patterns that may not be serving us, such as lack of work-life balance or ruminating thoughts and negative emotions. That’s where mindful listening can help.

What Is Mindful Listening? 

There is a difference between listening to internal and external sounds. External noise can be easier to let go of and ignore. But internal thoughts and experiences are stickier — they can be all-consuming and hard to let go of. They can be so loud that you might not even hear what the person you’re talking to is saying. They can disrupt your intention to meditate.

Mindful listening means being aware of both your inner dialogue and the external sounds around you. Once you have awareness of what you are hearing from outside and within, mindful listening encourages letting go of distractions and reactions (both physical and emotional) that can pull you away from the here and now. 

Roundglass meditation coach Jay Vidyarthi’s class, Meditation for Deep Listening, teaches you how to release mental impressions for a greater awareness of the present moment. 

How to Practice Mindful Listening

•Place your attention on the sounds you’re experiencing: Are they coming from your environment? Or is it mental chatter — that little voice in your head? Take stock of what your mind is most paying attention to. 

•The voice in your head talks about all sorts of things. Sometimes it talks fast, sometimes slow. It can be emotional,  rational, or neutral. Sometimes you hear word fragments as opposed to full sentences. Sometimes in your own voice, sometimes others. You can catch yourself singing a song in your head and even hear some of the instruments. Notice what patterns and mental noises are existing in your mind. 

•Recognize that this is simply noise, and you don’t have to listen to it. Let it come, let it move, let it go. Now try to expand your listening to hear even more sounds around you: They might be short sounds like a door slamming, or subtle drones like the heater or air conditioning. You might notice sounds of different pitch, volume, and spatial location. You might notice some continuous sounds, and some constantly changing.

•Continue listening with curiosity, noticing the interplay between internal and external noise. Take your time, let the music of your life dance around you, and enjoy it. 

•Now choose a sound and focus on it with your full concentration — quieting all other noise. This practice demonstrates that we do have control over what we listen and pay attention to. Practice this daily to strengthen this muscle.

It can be hard to untangle our thinking experience, but it’s worth it. Hearing and learning our mental triggers allow for space to become aware of distractions so we can refocus and listen more consciously. 

Mindful listening is important in learning how to regain control of your attention inside and out. 

Try Vidyarthi's course, Reclaim Your Attention for more tips and tricks. 

Header Photo by: Silvia Springorum / EyeEm/Getty Images

About the Teacher

Jay Vidyarthi

Jay Vidyarthi

Human-centered designer Jay Vidyarthi focuses on the intersection of mindfulness, design, technology, and ethics. He brings over a decade of meditation practice, in conjunction with his experience as a tech designer, to provide individuals with mindfulness tools that can help optimize their relationship with electronic devices and platforms.
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