John Cremer taught me about listening last week.
I’d already learned about Active Listening. John raised the stakes.
During his session on improvisation, he described the keys to improvisation on stage, in business, and in life. The first key was listening. (For the other keys, ask John Cremer at https://www.johncremer.co.uk/.)
When teaching about listening, John said:
Listening is essential in improvisation. If you miss a word, you missed a critical element. You can’t catch up.
Beyond that, when you are listening, you are very much in the present moment. Many seek mindfulness, to be in the present, and the improvisational actor is mindfully listening and in the present. Because, after all, you can listen only in the present. You can’t listen in the past. You can’t listen in the future. You can listen only in the present.
This mirrors the teaching of Juan Alvarez ( https://www.juan-alvarez.com/ ):
Focus on your breath. You can’t breathe in the past. You can’t breathe in the future. You can only breathe in the present. If you are focused on your breath, you are present.
Back To Listening
When I teach meditation, I have long comforted new meditators, who can be frustrated by unrelated noises. When a noise happens out in the hall, or out in the street, or right here in the room with us (like my stomach growling), participants can be distracted. They think, “That noise is distracting me from my meditation.”
My comfort: The noise is not a distraction. It is an invitation to the present moment.
I tried to neutralize the effect of the noise.
But John Cremer lifted the value of the noise from neutral to helpful. John taught that:
If you want to start meditating — or are seeking a new form of meditation — then consider this: listen. Whatever you hear is not a distraction, and it isn’t neutral. It is your very mantra. Listen for what you hear. That is what you meditate on.
And, he raised the stakes again:
Do you wish you were closer to those you love? Do you wish you were more present in the company of your loved ones? Then listen to them. If you can hear their voices you are present.
If you hear their footsteps, you are present.
If you hear them turning the pages of a book, you are present.
If you hear their breathing, you are present.
If you hear their heartbeat, there might be a medical condition.
Or you might be very close.