Oren J. Sofer

The Art of Listening

One of the first exercises we often teach in our curriculum at Mindful Schools is Mindful Listening. After getting the kids engaged and establishing the right conditions for mindfulness (willingness, interest, a good posture), we ring a chime or bell and invite the children to listen with all of their attention. We challenge them to listen to the whole sound – from the first moment it strikes all the way through to the end of its fading, until they can no longer hear even the faintest trace of sound.

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When a roomful of human beings listen that intently together two things happen without fail: it gets still, and it gets quiet. And regardless of our age, there’s usually something soothing about that.

Though we start with this activity, it’s not just a beginning exercise. At its core, mindfulness can be understood as a practice of deep, whole-hearted listening. What does it take to really listen? Recall the last time you stopped long enough to listen to the sound of the rain, the wind, or a baby breathing? What do we have to put aside or let go of to truly listen?

Feeling still and quiet can be a delightful result of practice. Yet once we taste that stillness we can quickly forget how we got there, and chase after that state of quietude – in ourselves, our classroom or students. We mistake an effect of mindfulness practice for its goal. And as any teacher knows, it simply doesn’t work to try to get a roomful of kids to sit still and quiet for any length of time. (Much as it can be difficult to ask our own mind to grow still and quiet on command!) But give them something novel and interesting to pay close attention to, and watch the transformation occur.

It’s the same in our personal practice. Hanker after peace and you reap frustration. Slow down and give curious, patient attention to your direct experience and you open the door to a profound sense of presence.


Mindful Schools transforms school communities from the inside out. Founded in 2007, Mindful Schools’ graduates have impacted over 750,000 children worldwide. Learn more about our online courses, which provide training for educators to share mindfulness with their students: Mindfulness Fundamentals and Mindful Educator Essentials.

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