The art of listening is somewhat of a selfless endeavor. In order to conceptualize the broadest understanding of the narratives which unfold around us, we must begin with a mindset which focuses more on others and less on the self. This is critical because the more we take in regarding our surroundings, the better chance we have at accomplishing what we hope to achieve.
How often do we find ourselves so caught up in our work, so focused on a task, so frustrated by a situation that we fail to see important cues regarding the broader aspects of a business decision or completely overlook the needs of our families? How often do we formulate our opinions of others before we allow ourselves to consider the complexities of their stories? How often do we jump to conclusions about the situations we encounter every day without taking the time to adequately assess the bigger picture?
Our blindness to important details can impact how we interact with everyone and everything we encounter every day, but the more we strive to get the entire picture, the more we try to observe the world with objectivity and reason and the more questions we ask in the process, the more likely it is that we will respond in the best way possible.
This is one of the primary goals of the High Holy Days. This season encourages us to see things in a new way. We are invited to see the world as God sees the world, as a judge – hearing, weighing and pondering the stories our lives.
Improving our abilities to read the narratives unfolding around us takes practice. It demands effort. It requires being in the moment. It involves asking more questions and making fewer assumptions. It means that we need to become more sensitive, more empathic, and far more aware of the constantly changing realities which surround us every minute of every day.
There is a blessing that is recited every morning in observant Jewish communities which translates as follows: Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruling Spirit of the Universe who opens the eyes of the blind.
The recitation of this morning prayer is set in our tradition as a reminder to begin each morning with the removal of the blindfolds which may hinder our daily interactions. It is a mindset which seeks to shift our interactions from a self-centered perspective to a perspective which begins with the needs of others. As we begin the year anew, let us strengthen our resolve to see the world with this outward mindset by removing our blindfolds, opening our eyes and considering more information before we act.