Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tips for receptivity i: Slow Down

 The connection between time and space is stronger than most people imagine. Time converts into space; space converts into time. For example, a piece of music is heard as a sequence of notes in the dimension of time. However, if the piece is recorded onto a CD it becomes a part of space and can be held in one’s hand all at once; time has been converted into space. Conversely, if a CD is played, the piece of music is once again heard as a sequence in time; space has been converted into time.

 The manner in which the mind listens to, stores, and repeats communications is very similar. When listening to a teaching we hear it as a sequence of words and ideas in the dimension of time. When we store it within our minds, however, it enters some sort of internal ‘space’. This is why, if we have memorized the information well, we can recall an entire teaching in a flash. However, when we share the teaching with others our mind converts it back into a sequence of words and ideas in the flow of time.

The message from this principle vis-a-vis effective listening is that speaking is strongly associated with time – not space - and therefore, if we wish to listen effectively we must practice patience – that is, remain passive for the duration of time that the speaker talks.

Another fascinating connection between time and space is that the faster one travels – speed is measured by time I.e. Km per hour - the smaller any given space appears to be. If one travelled past the Earth at super speed, the earth would appear tiny, perhaps like a seed. All of its particular objects, colors, shapes, etc. would be indistinguishable. As one slows down, however, the earth appears increasingly larger and larger until, at walking pace, it appears enormous with its countless detail gloriously displayed.

This too is relevant to listening. If a person is in a hurry when listening - whether to go somewhere, to make one’s own point, or to get to the speaker’s point - he will only hear the speaker’s message superficially. On the other hand, if he slows himself down and gives the speaker time, he becomes aware of the nuances in the message, understanding it more accurately, sensing it underlying emotion.

Imagine a string in an S shape. Now suppose you want to place beads along the entire length of this string. Large beads, though fitting neatly along the straighter sections of the string, would fit only roughly along the curves, with many protrusions. Small beads, however, would fit neatly around the entire string, conforming to its entire shape.

Now picture that every time someone talks they produce a similar string with their voice. Your role as a listener is to place mental ‘beads’ made of ideas along the string,  to interpret what the speaker is saying. If you use pre-established complex ideas and experiences to interpret the speaker – large beads – you would only get a rough sense of their message, or would misinterpret it altogether. However, if you listen to each word separately, interpreting it at face value – small beads – you attain a more tightly fitting and accurate understanding of their message.

Whether you use ‘small beads’ or ‘large beads’ largely depends on your level of patience; if impatient you may interpret the speakers ideas with similar pre-established ones of our own, while if patient you can interpret each of the speakers words separately, gradually building a picture out of the speaker’s words.                              

On the verse, “And the entire nation saw the voices”, in reference to the mystical revelation at Mt. Sinai, Rabbi Moshe of Kossov asks a question much repeated by Torah commentaries, “Voices are heard, not seen. So why does the verse state that the nation saw the voices?”

In answer, he explains that there are two types of seeing: seeing with the physical eyes and seeing with the mind’s eye, as when a person says “I see what you mean”. A significant difference exists between these two forms of seeing. Seeing with our physical eyes requires no intermediary between the object and our ability to see the object; we can perceive the object directly. However, to see with the mind’s eye, one must first listen to a message, understand it, and only with its crystallization does one see it. Listening is an intermediary between the vision of the mind’s eye and the spiritual ‘object’ that it sees. 

A miracle occurred at Sinai, people saw the spiritual realm - normally heard about - directly with their mind’s eye, without the usual intermediary of listening. Hence, the people ‘saw the voices’. If we were to translate this supernatural form of perception into ordinary human interactions, it would involve a listener mentally perceiving a speaker’s thoughts and feelings before the speaker articulates them through his speech.

Based on this, if we ever interrupt a speaker mid-sentence claiming to already ‘see’ his point before he concludes, besides for being arrogant, impatient and inconsiderate, we presume ourselves able to “see voices” as the people experienced at Sinai! Remember: physical sight requires no intermediary, but spiritual sight does: listening.

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