the art of listening

“Siddhartha listened. He was now listening intently, completely absorbed, quite empty, taking in everything. He felt that he had now completely learned the art of listening. He had often heard all this before, all these numerous voices in the river, but today they sounded different. He could no longer distinguish the different voices-the merry voice from the weeping voice, the childish voice from the manly voice. They all belonged to each other: the lament of those who yearn, the laughter of the wise, the cry of the indignation and the groan of the dying. they were all interwoven and interlocked, entwined in a thousand ways. And all the voices, all the goals, all the yearnings, all the sorrows, all the pleasures, all the good and evil, all of them together was the world. All of them together was the stream of events, the music of life. When Siddhartha listened attentively to this river, to this song of a thousand voices; when he did not listen to the sorrow or laughter, when he did not bind his soul to any one particular voice and absorb it in his Self, but heard them all, the whole, the unity; then the great song of a thousand voices consisted of one word: Om–perfection.”


Have you been somewhere or been with someone and you just can’t focus? As hard as you try you just can’t pay attention to what is going on or what they are saying. Your mind continues to wander and your thoughts continue drift to things opposite the subject of conversation. I think that we as a society are so guilty of this, myself included. It is our nature to have wandering minds, to get distracted so easily. However, as natural as this is, I believe that one of the keys to life is mastering the art of listening.

But how? How can we master the art of listening, the art of focusing on one thing and everything at the same time? I think that the excerpt from Siddhartha above captures a part of the answer to this burning question of mine. I love how Siddartha talks about hearing all the voices but in the end they are all one. This is so similar to our day to day activities. We become so wrapped up in what we are doing throughout the day, that we forget to stop and listen to the sounds of the world around us. I live right near a freeway and I have found that I am used to the roar of cars passing by. The noise no longer irritates me because I have grown accustomed to it. In the same way, I think we as a society have gotten used to the sounds of the day and forget to take some time and listen to the beautiful sounds of the world around you.

Another aspect of Siddhartha’s lesson that I found helpful was the idea that he could not distinguish the weeping voice from the cheerful voice, as if they were harmonized. Similarly, in Taoism, it is emphasized to find balance in one’s life, the same way the voices were perfectly balanced to create one voice. I feel like Siddhartha’s take on listening to the world around you has so many more gems of wisdom embedded in it, you just have to listen to your own Self to hear them.


“Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time…”



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