Listening to your own conscience and to others is good for your health

Are you listening? @Glowimages

Are you listening?

A much loved childhood storybook in our family tells the tale of a little boy who was sledding.  As he perched at the top of the hill, the thought came to him to stop because the hill had become too icy.  He didn’t listen and went down the hill anyway.  He tumbled and was hurt.  He told his mother that something had told him not to, but he didn’t listen.

As an adult I would love to be able to say that I always listen and do the right thing, but I don’t.  One time while I was running around a pool, the thought came to me, “Don’t run, you have told the children many times not to run around the pool because the deck might be slippery.”  But, I was having fun playing with the children.  I did slip and fell awkwardly into the pool and broke my leg.

These two incidents had consequences – one minor and one more serious.  There are other times when the decision not to listen could have even more serious results.  For instance, one may know in one’s heart not to drink and drive; not to smoke or take drugs. But we may still do these things, despite the “little voice in our head” that tells us not to do something that isn’t really good for us or might put us in a precarious situation.

We are all familiar with the fairy tale Pinocchio.  You know, where the wooden puppet becomes a real little boy.  Without strings to guide him, he thinks he’ll be happier doing what he wants, despite the efforts of Jiminy Cricket, acting as his conscience, to guide him in the right direction. We might liken Pinocchio’s original strings as very similar to that little voice in our head a conscience which is always actively guiding us through our daily challenges. For people who have a meditative or religious practice, it might be framed as “spiritual intuition”.

It seems to me that the same things that would get in the way of good listening skills when we are working with others, often are the things that keep us from listening to our own voice. Things such as: ego – thinking we know it all; wanting to do something no matter what wise information is coming at us and regardless the consequences; or too much stuff going on in our head for us to listen quietly.

According to the Conflict Research Consortium at University of Colorado, poor listening skills can be attributed to: thinking you know what someone is going to say before they say it; preconceived notions you won’t agree with what’s about to be said; formulating responses before hearing someone out; (1) “Such poor listening makes good communication almost impossible. No matter how much care one person or group takes to communicate their concerns, values, interests, or needs in a fair, clear, unthreatening way, if the listener is not willing to receive that information in that way, the communication will fail.” the Consortium says.

A high school boy was wondering what it would feel like to get drunk.  He thought those he had seen drunk were funny – and they seemed to have a freedom to do silly things that they would never do sober.  In spite of all the warnings and heartfelt communication from his parents, he did find out what it was like.  What followed were many years of struggle to overcome alcoholism. Eventually, he turned back to the Christian faith with which he had grown up and discovered for himself that even when he wasn’t listening, God was speaking to him and caring for him. He had, and always had had, an unbroken relationship with God. This helped him find freedom from the addiction.

Good communication, according to a large number of studies, requires learning to really listen to someone else. The same is true when it comes to listening to our own little voice or spiritual intuition. The Bible tells us that the prophets talked with God as easily as we talk with one another.    The precursor to talking with God this way is the willingness to listen.  Whether it is God one calls upon for direction, a voice within, intuition, or another name for a power higher than our own, we can trust it will come if we are truly listening.

(1)   Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, Poor Listening Skills

Other research material

Kate is interested in blogging about health, spirituality, Christian Science, science, the importance of prayer and religion in maintaining a healthy mind-body-spirit connection.  She is a Christian Science practitioner and the legislative, media and public contact for Christian Science in the state of Maryland.