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For most of evolution, life was a lot quieter than it is today. It's been a few thousand years since the first blacksmith started hammering; – but recently, with motors, amplifiers, drills, bombs and beat music, we have suddenly become a very loud species.

Life has become stressful for all animals who are dependent on this sense for their survival –, and i think all the others (humans), have become a little deaf.

Listening has an immediacy which the other senses don't have, and this is because sounds, especially sounds which indicate danger, are sometimes very sudden and over in a split second; smells and sights usually last at least a few seconds. Listening requires and stimulates nowness like no other sense.

There's quite a difference between listening to silence; – listening to something specific, like music or bird song; – listening to everything; – and broadband listening.

I remember camping by a deserted country road, listening at night to the occasional single car winding off into the distance, with the feeling that it was stretching my hearing abilities for five miles and more, and then, the complete silence, ... If this sort of experience could be guaranteed i would find focusing a better idea than broadbanding.

If you are lucky enough to live where there is a river, or a cacophony of bird song, then focus on that, it's usually wonderful and very relaxing, but realise that animals would only ever hear this in the background. It is listening out – the openness and receptivity to any and every sudden and short stimuli – which is vital for animals. And it is this potential with listening which modern humans have neglected.

Listening to everything is the background and a good first step. Be open. Listen as helpless and vulnerable as babies are before they learn to filter out the boring everyday sounds, even before they learn that they have ears.

Then, do a little yoga with your hearing, stretch it, listen out. Actively listen, searching for sounds. Check in all directions, near and far away, high and low. Imagine how early man might listen out for distant wild boar or herds of oxen or buffalo, and nearby for tigers or snakes.

We can easily imagine how animals and early man would have a collection of familiar sounds, signs of danger or food, and would become attuned to specific sounds. They would listen out for the crack of a nearby twig, distant wild boar foraging, or sudden changes in bird song. Maybe a car horn is a modern day wild-boar ... a helicopter a swarm of locusts ...

Listening out is being ready to hear specific things which haven't happened yet, it is a pre-emptive awareness. Be ready for any sudden surprise, check for quick sounds, a car door slamming or are there any really quiet sounds nearby, maybe a leaf rustling in the wind. Things which aren't there yet, but could happen.

Listening out for distant dogs, pigeons and children is often a good idea, at night listening out for owls and hedgehogs. You might not often hear them, that's irrelevant, listening out for them is the vital part.

It all depends on what it sounds like where you are. I was once near a children's playground, here i found it useful to listen out for cars!

This experience with the car on the country road was back in 1980. Old-fashioned cars went 'brrmm', (modern ones go 'whhee'). These days, at night i listen out for motorbikes.

There is no better, simpler or more direct exercise than 'listening out' to stop thinking, or at least slow the thoughts down for a few seconds and enjoy a moments inner peace. If we empathise with the animals acuity of listening, we can't think. If we start thinking, we stop listening, and at that moment an animal would be vulnerable.

For a hare or deer, it's a matter of survival, but we don't have that compelling motive. Maybe we need to recreate a touch of that primitive angst and urgency, and the compelling motive for us is : if we don't stop thinking for a few moments, we will all go crazy. It is urgent that we get a bit of direct and simple peace of mind.

There's one other thing. When i feel open to hearing everything, the sensation is that i'm listening with the whole of my head, rather than just the ears. This subjective sensation may be my imagination but even if it is, it's a pleasant feeling. And i could easily believe that this is how it feels for many animals, birds for example (with no exterior ears), and babies, who learn to cover their ears with their hands between 6 and 12 months old.

Please continue with Seeing Everything

extra ideas probably useless

We use it on bicycles, but mainly we have made life safe with walls and traffic lights –, we don't need to listen out for wild boar or buffaloes, food comes from supermarkets where we need eyes.

Some modern sounds truly aren't good to listen to, modern ear plugs are invaluable. Listening out with ear-plugs has the effect of making the sounds inside your body louder.

There is another question i'm considering.
With listening, everyone seems to have at least some idea of how to try and do it ... with seeing most people have no idea.

Why is broadband listening so much easier than seeing for humans?

This maybe because
1. Listening is secondary in learning to seeing – with seeing we are so highly trained to focus with the eyes from such an early age.
2. Hearing is more connected with the lower brain, (the two eyes are intrinsically connected with the two halves of the brain).
3. We use hearing all around us every day – to some extent.

Please continue with Seeing Everything

Back to Chapter Three : Seeing and Listening