Have you ever found yourself mindlessly nodding along as someone speaks without really listening to the words being said? Or had to ask someone to repeat something that he or she has just said to you because you can’t seem to recall it at all?
These examples highlight some of the reasons it is beneficial to practice mindfulness, or fully bringing awareness to the present moment without judgment, in any situation that requires listening. Paying full attention to what someone is saying enhances interpersonal relationships, has advantages in the workplace, and is an important skill for effective conflict resolution.
If you find mindful listening challenging, try practicing with music. Over time, and with repeated practice, you will enhance your mindfulness skills and your ability to practice mindful listening during daily interactions, leading to valuable personal and professional rewards.
1. Select a song
You may want choose an instrumental piece, or a lyrical song. It may be a song that you already know, or one that is unfamiliar to you.
2. First Focus on your breath
Begin by sitting in a comfortable position and focusing your attention on your breath: observe the inhale, the exhale, and the pause in between as you slowly take a few deep breaths.
3. Listen to the music
Now start the song and shift all of your attention to the music. You may choose to close your eyes and/or use headphones to help you focus on the music. If your mind wanders at any point, simply notice this and, without judgment, try to shift your attention back to the music.
4. Observe without judgment
Acknowledge any observations that come up for you as you listen to the music. Notice the rhythm and tempo, the sounds of different instruments, and any changes in volume or rhythm. If the song has vocals, pay attention to the lyrics and observe the interplay between lyrical meaning and the sounds of the music. Notice any thoughts or feelings that arise as you listen to the song. Try not to get caught up with these thoughts, simply notice them and then bring your focus back to the music.
5. Reflect on this practice
When the song ends, take a moment to pause and reflect on this mindful listening practice. Observe how your body feels in this moment. Do you notice any changes in your body, mind, or emotions compared to before you began this mindful listening practicing? If so, describe to yourself what has changed. Think about what type of music you may want to listen to the next time that you try this practice.
Remember to check back for more mindfulness exercises on Mondays!