Wednesday, November 03, 2010

(could I please) Shut up and Listen

Have you ever really wished you could shut up and listen to someone who was trying to open up a new possibility to you? When we think of that phrase "shut up and listen," we usually imagine it being said by a frustrated speaker struggling to hold someone's attention. But taken a different way, it might be a plea to ourselves.

How insistent is that critical voice in your head that finds problems before they exist and continually interrupts your efforts to listen to something outside yourself? Some people carry a whole committee of conscientious critics in their minds; other people hear just one voice worrying away at them. Almost everyone, almost always, has a voice in their head that is running at the same time they are attempting to listen to someone else speak.

Many of us who have experienced hypnosis experience it as a reprieve from the noise in our heads. The voice or voices that continually label and debate get softer. We are free to let our attention follow a voice that is truly, blessedly, external to us. We do not shut up and obey or even shut up and follow. But we do shut up and listen.

Reading can do this for us, too. In order to make sense of the words in front of us, we let the voice in our heads get caught up in someone else's words. Reading is a kind of listening in which the critical voice in our heads reads someone else's words and allows them to become our thoughts. As long as we are reading, we hear only one thing at a time, and we allow our rhythms to synchronize with the words in front of us so that we make sense (through our senses) of the meanings the words carry.

When we get lost in a good book, the voice in our head makes way for the voice of the author. We shut up and listen. And it feels great. It feels like learning, and like growing stronger.

The voice in our head means well. It tries to keep us safe from mistakes and manipulation. But, like any other nagging voice, it wears us down and tires us out. It makes us long for the peace of quiet. Trance doesn't open us to someone else's control. It just lets us hear what is being said with our strongest and best selves.


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