What do we get from really listening?
My friend says I have great hearing. I do kinda, but it's tempered by 64 years of noise pollution, not to mention too many concerts that were too loud. I left when it got really loud, but there were times that I just knew I was doing a little bit of damage. Add them all up, and my right ear isn't quite as sensitive as my left, and I know that there are certain frequencies where I'm weak. (I know because I had a hearing test once upon a time, and they told me so… In my arrogance, I had been sure I would ace the hearing test and even be better than average!)
Why it seems that I have excellent hearing is that I have excellent listening. But what does that even mean? It means I'm paying attention. To everything. Maybe I have an advantage due to the superpowers embodied in being a person with “ADHD”.
You do know that there is no deficit nor disorder with people who have the set of traits that we call “ADHD”… I do not have an attention deficit. If anything, I have an attention surplus. I pay attention to everything. All at once. I'm fascinated by everything. My job is to stay present- to pay attention to what is happening right here, right now. As I learn to do that, I experience the full array of what's going on- sounds, colors, tastes, emotions, etc. So, I hear everything, even the things that for some people would be deemed inconsequential by the brain's filters and thereby ignored. It's not that you didn't hear it, it got filtered out on the way in by unconscious processes designed to help you to keep life simple and “pay attention” to just what is a) necessary for your survival, and b) of your current interest (like a TV show or task at hand.)
But there is so much else going on!
I don't have those filters. I can watch TV and be aware of the sounds outside- there's a truck, there's some people talking, there's big boom from far away, and the train's horn. and on and on. As I write this, I'm fully aware of my surroundings. Actually, I have an interest in my surroundings. Maybe it's just advanced FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), but I don't experience it that way.
And it's no more of a disorder than a lack of creativity is, or narcissism (I probably have that too), or being happy ALL the time, or having a Gothic outlook on life, or being an avid collector of anything- or any way of being that gives a challenge because you're different than everybody else.
EVERYBODY is different than everybody else. Get over it. Trying to fit in is tilting at windmills. There is no danger, and you can't win anyway. And it's frigging exhausting anyway- I know, I spent large parts of my life trying it.
Let's climb back up from our digression… The KEY to POWERFUL LISTENING might simply be, PAY ATTENTION.
But we're out of practice. We stopped paying attention as soon as we thought we had the basics of life figured out. Maybe somewhere in high school? Before that? It doesn't matter. Most “education” is really an attempt to normalize everyone. You don't have to pay attention to very much, or even be “present” in order to be normal.
So what does this mean? It means… Practice Listening. Practice BEING INTERESTED. (They say, don't worry about being interesting, take on being interested instead.) Practice Being Curious! (I know it killed the cat, but that cat had more fun in life than most of us do.)
SO!! I hear more because I'm listening- paying attention, curious and interested. It's that simple.
I don't remember them teaching me this in school. Do you? (Or maybe I just wasn't listening!)
But who cares? What's so great about hearing the train whistle while I'm doing something at home? The birds chirping outside? The creak of the walls when there's an earthquake 100's of miles away? And when I'm out in nature, the birds and animals and rustling in the bushes, the sounds of civilization just far enough away.
These make no difference for my survival.
But it makes for such a rich life! A life where there is always beauty and wonder to be found. A life where there's always something new to learn. A life where people show up in their full multi-dimensionality. And of course, Music!
Here's something to listen to:
You'll find yourself in a huge open space with large metal shapes hanging from tall frames. A breeze kicks up- the metal pieces start swinging and bumping into each other. The wind gets stronger, the metal pieces ringing, becoming one big wash of bell sounds. Walk around the space, listening from different places. Finally, the wind dies down, allowing the sound to slowly fade away, leaving you very peaceful.