Your senses are your gateway to mindfulness. Zen counts thinking as a sense just like seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling. All of your senses are active in the present moment, that is why turning to your senses brings you back to the present. If you are not engaged in one of your five senses, you are likely consumed with thinking. Without mindfulness, thinking can run away with you. It can tap into your fears and insecurities and create a whole world of distress for you. There will always be something to be afraid or stressed about, just like there will always be something to be joyful or grateful about. Stress and fear is more pushy though, so if you’re not paying attention, your thoughts may gravitate in that direction. To bring yourself back from your fears and anxieties, you can be mindful and listen.
Listening is generally done with sound, but you can listen with all of your senses. You can listen to your thoughts, even though they don’t make noise. If you listen to your breathing, you take conscious control of your breath. If you listen to what you see, you quiet your thoughts as you look. Listening to the present moment with any of your senses, interrupts unconscious thoughts and reconnects you with your conscious mind. Actively listening to others as they talk is a simple way to remind yourself to be mindful in your daily activities.
If you are not in the habit of listening mindfully, making yourself listen to others will change the dynamics of your conversations. You may notice that if you wait for others to stop talking before you respond, they may just talk and talk and talk. That gives you more opportunity to listen. As you practice listening, notice how your thoughts keep breaking in and looking to add to, or steer the conversation. Like in meditation, just let those thoughts go and continue to listen. You will be surprised about what you learn when you listen.
Listening is a challenge to yourself to be quiet and let things be. When you practice listening mindfully, with all of your senses, you will find your present moments, pleasant places to be.