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Put away your smartphone, your to-do list, and your keys. Turn off the TV, the radio, the computer. Sit down and look at your son, daughter, spouse, relative or friend when they speak. Listen.
They want to tell you about their day, their thoughts, their problems, their ideas and their innermost wishes. They want to be understood, completely and thoroughly. If they want to tell you about their problems, that doesn’t necessarily mean they require your help to fix them. They need love, not advice. They need to be heard. They know, like we all do, that listening is love.
Listening, especially to the call of God, brings rejoicing. When we actively listen we try to fully understand the condition of the speaker, and identify with their emotional, spiritual and mental state. A true listener is a treasure:
- Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk. – Doug Larson
- One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. – Bryant H. McGill
- If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk. – Robert Baden-Powell
- Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. – Karl A. Menninger
There is a big difference, though, between active listening and passive listening. Wisdom is knowing the difference. Passive listening involves hearing the words and acknowledging them without reacting, interrupting or clarifying. Active listening involves asking clarifying questions when appropriate, and sometimes offering your opinion when asked.
Depending on the situation, whether we listen actively or passively, it means fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just hearing the message of the speaker. This kind of attentive listening involves real hearing, not just with the ears, but with all senses.
Baha’u’llah, in his mystical book The Seven Valleys, advised us to become deep listeners to “the songs of the spirit”: “O My friend, listen with heart and soul to the songs of the spirit, and treasure them as thine own eyes.” – The Seven Valleys, p. 37.
Only those who listen carefully and fully, with heart and soul, can hear the songs of the spirit:
It is early morning, and the reviving winds of the Abha Paradise are blowing over all creation, but they can stir only the pure of heart, and only the pure sense can detect their fragrance. Only the perceiving eye beholdeth the rays of the sun; only the listening ear can hear the singing of the Concourse on high. Although the plentiful rains of spring, the bestowals of Heaven, pour down upon all things, they can only fructify good soil; they love not brackish ground, where no results of all the bounty can be shown.
Today the soft and holy breathings … are passing over every land, but only the pure in heart draw nigh and derive a benefit therefrom. It is the hope of this wronged soul that from the grace of the Self-Subsistent One and by the manifest power of the Word of God, the heads of the unmindful may be cleared, that they may perceive these sweet savours which blow from secret rosebeds of the spirit. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 22.
The “reviving winds of the Abha Paradise are blowing over all creation …” What does that mean? The Arabic word “Baha” means “Glory”, and the word “Abha,” a superlative form, simply means “Most Glorious.” The word “Abha” also refers to Baha’u’llah—often called “the Abha Beauty” in the Baha’i writings—whose title means “the Glory of God.” The Abha Paradise, then, denotes the new divine message brought to humanity by Baha’u’llah—in one sense, the Baha’i Faith itself.
Those who truly listen will hear those reviving winds clearly, and the new message of love and peace they bring.