Given the importance of listening that we are so well aware of in the context of creating a culture that values the inter-subjective I thought I’d publish a few writings here on the virtue of listening.
Don’t listen with your ears, listen with your mind.
No, don’t listen with your mind, but listen with your spirit.
Listening stops with the ears, the mind stops
with recognition, but spirit is empty and waits on all
things. The way gathers in emptiness alone.
Emptiness is the fasting of the mind.– Zhuangzi
In Chinese The character ting
( 聽: listen) is etymologically related to the characters, both pronounced
de, which refer to the rectitude of the heart (德 ) and original nature
( 德 )). The character ting (listen) is composed of the character that
stands for the rectitude of the heart (悳 ) combined with that for the ear
(耳 ) of the disciple who is listening attentively. The overall sense
imparted by this character is that, through attentive listening, one’s
heart may be rectified. From the imagery of the character ting, we
might define the ability to “listen” as the ability to hear our heart and
the hearts of others without deviation. We who are “listening” in this
way are able to know the nature of things immediately in our heart,
directly bypassing the analytic faculties of our mind. Therefore, the
capacity of listening may be said to empower intuition. The character
gong (宮 ) designates the imperial private residence from the Qin
dynasty. This allusion to the emperor places further emphasis on the
relationship between “listening” and the heart official as emperor in
one’s inner kingdom.
The Chinese alchemical text “Secret of the Golden Flower” (Tai Yi Jin
Hua Zong Zhi, eighteenth century) describes the role of listening in aiding
the heart’s spirit to penetrate into the interior (depths of self). It
paraphrases a legendary text, the Danshu (Book of the Elixir), and states:
The hen can hatch her eggs because the heart is always listening. The
hen can hatch her eggs because of the energy of heat. But the energy
of the heat can only warm the shells; it cannot penetrate into the interior.
Therefore she conducts this energy inward with her heart. This
she does with her hearing. In this way she concentrates her whole
heart. When the heart penetrates, the energy penetrates, and the chick
receives the energy of the heat and begins to live. Therefore a hen, even
at times when she leaves her eggs, always has the attitude of listening
with bent ear. Thus the concentration of the spirit is not interrupted.