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God Is Talking, Are You Listening?
By Brad Swift
As a personal coach for over a decade, I've come to realize that one of the ways I can add value to my clients' lives is by helping them to identify the blocks or obstacles that often prevent them from receiving the gift of wisdom that God is constantly offering us.
While it's true that tapping into our inner wisdom is a powerful means of bringing clarity to our lives, there's another resource many people fail to fully tap into, in large part because we have constructed mental roadblocks that prevent us from clearly hearing the wisdom from other people.
Actually, our inner guidance system plays an important role here as well. When we remove the mental roadblocks, we then have a much clearer channel to receive the contribution being offered by others. We can then feel for what resonates with our inner wisdom, keeping what fits and releasing the rest. But first we must eliminate the blocks that tend to prevent or distort the flow of wisdom.
I invite you to explore with me some of the common mental roadblocks that I've found can prevent us from getting the most from others. God talks to us in many ways, including using the voice of others, but are we listening? Let's look at some of the mental blocks that may be preventing clear reception.
The Monkey Mind
The mind creates 50,000 thoughts a day! The trick is not to become attached to any of them. These thoughts are simply the byproduct of the brain's metabolism, nothing to take too seriously.
The term "monkey mind" is a poetic way of describing your mind's constant chatter. The monkey mind refers to the little voice in your mind that comments on nearly everything you do or experience. It is that stream of consciousness that keeps flitting from one thing to another like a monkey jumping from branch to branch. Even when you are concentrating your mind drifts off to fantasies about something you are going to do next weekend or an unresolved problem you must face tomorrow.
This chattering voice not only distracts you in most situations, it also uses valuable brain power. In today's times with modern technology such as the television, radio, and the Internet, this chatter is reinforced as we're constantly bombarded by input. The monkey mind becomes even more of a block when we allow our actions to flow from the ramblings of the monkey mind. How many of us have been on a phone call with another, or perhaps in a teleclass, when suddenly the monkey mind thought is, "I wonder what emails I've received?" If we're not careful, before we know it, we're reading our email messages while supposedly listening to the phone call.
When our mind is chattering away it can make it nearly impossible to fully hear what another person is saying, especially the sometimes subtle messages coming from God. What to do? Well, for starters, just recognizing that we all have a monkey mind can help. By bringing it into our awareness, we can begin to tame the wild monkey. For instance, as soon as you notice you're listening to your monkey mind rather than the person you're talking with, you can stop and bring yourself back to the conversation. You may even want to ask the person to back up and repeat what they were saying before the monkey mind took over.
Taking time once or twice a day to quiet the mind can also prove very helpful in the long run. Meditation, reflection or prayer can quiet the restless nature of your mind. Also, periodically dumping all the thoughts you've been trying to hold onto can be very freeing from the monkey mind. Most of us try to hold way too much in our memories. As productivity guru David Allen points out in his book Getting Things Done, our ability to be productive (which includes hearing the voice of God coming from others), is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve a new level of stress-free productivity. So, try dumping out all those thoughts onto a pad of paper. Write down all the appointments you've been trying to remember, the projects and next actions you need to take, etc. Watch the monkey mind as it relaxes, then listen. God has a message for you.
The Full Cup Syndrome
The second mental block is commonly called the Full Cup Syndrome and it's a condition males are particularly prone to but which women are not immune. It's best describe by the following story:
So, they retired to the tea garden where the master began the much venerated tea ceremony, preparing the water mindfully, adding the tea leaves just so, etc. The master began pouring the tea into the young seeker's cup, talking politely as he did so. As the cup began to fill, the student-to-be grew nervous, yet the master continued to pour. The cup filled to the brim, then the tea began to pour over the rim.
"Master, master," cried the young man. "You are over filling my cup."
Finally, with a smile, the Zen master stopped pouring the tea. "Yes, and you are like the cup; so full there is no room for enlightenment."
Interestingly enough, once again awareness goes a long way in eliminating this mental roadblock. Once we notice that we're listening as though we already know everything, we can catch it, and let go of it. We can then begin to relate to the person who's trying to contribute to us in a different way.
Dealing With Bias
Let's face it, we are all biased about something and really about almost everything. We all have unexamined notions, assumptions and beliefs, some which often masquerade as truth. Those are the ones that can act as a large boulder in our path to getting the most out of life. We bring our bias with us to any new relationship although we often don't notice we're doing this, mainly because we do it so often that our bias is simply part of the "background noise" of our lives.
If we're not mindful, our unexamined notions, assumptions and beliefs that make up our bias will effectively prevent us from evolving and growing from the relationship. In other words, anything that doesn't fit in our normal paradigm or world view will be discounted, ignored, glossed over or rejected. An important part of coaching is revealing these previously unexamined notions, assumptions and beliefs, particularly the ones that are so unexplored as to be transparent -- viewed as simply the way life is.
But how can we detect these boulders of bias when they threaten to knock us off course? For starters, begin to notice how you react or respond when in conversation with someone else. Often, when we hear a different viewpoint or opinion that doesn't match our own, we react, sometimes quite strongly. When we're operating from our bias, we often listen to see if we agree or disagree with what the person is saying. And the more strongly we disagree, the more sacred the "truth" is that's being called into question.
Now, I'm not suggesting that you should simply accept everything anyone says as true, either. That would be erring at the other end of the spectrum. The starting point once again is awareness. Begin to notice while in a conversation with another person the tendency to listen to see if you agree or disagree with what the other person is saying. That's a good indication that your bias may be interfering with your ability to fully hear what's being said.
Have you noticed that with each of these 3 mental blocks we've explored -- monkey mind, the full cup syndrome and bias -- that the key to releasing the block is awareness? When we become aware that these mental blocks exist in all of us, then we can begin to be responsible for them. This then makes it possible to set them aside and to design new ways of thinking that will enhance the value we can receive from others.
Adopting Beginner's Mind
When we acknowledge and become responsible for the interference that comes from our monkey mind, our full cups and from being biased, what naturally begins to occur is a new opening for being fully present, aware and available for contribution.
This open-minded approach to life is sometimes referred to as "beginner's mind." Coming to a relationship with a beginner's mind approach makes it possible to gain much more value from the other person. The value increases even more when the other person is willing to be open-minded as well.
There's a second way of relating to a conversation that can dramatically increase the value we receive, especially when it's woven together with beginner's mind. I call it Turning On Your Radar for Insights. When you have your radar turned on for insights, you're open and receptive for hearing pearls of wisdom and nuggets of gold that can make a difference in your life.
But gathering insights is only the beginning. Often times many of us are so enamored with this first step that we forget to follow through with all the insights we gather. But as my first coach often said, "An insight by itself is like a pinch in the buttocks -- interesting for a moment but hardly life changing." To really get the most value from insights, you must apply the Growth and Development Formula:
Insight + Action = Growth and Development
For example, many people have had the insight that if they want to lose weight they must eat less, eat more balanced meals and exercise more. But those insights by themselves will make no difference for the person who's interested in losing weight unless they take action on the insight.
If you've gleaned some insights from this article, here's an exercise I offer to help you take action:
Then practice listening differently - with a beginner's mind - for insights upon which you can take action.
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