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Listening or reading?

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

I’ve recently been reading a few more spiritual teachings, and in observing myself it seems to me that there is a different process when listening or reading. With listening the type of voice is important, how good a speaker he is, his intonation. And often I find myself falling asleep, and retaining less. Whereas if I read I remember a bit more, it seems to go in more.

Do you have a preference for how you take in teachings?


  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I don't know about the 'falling asleep and retaining 'less' aspect.
    It's a well-known fact that people in a coma retain what they hear - it is apparently the last sense to leave us when we are dying... Hospital employees are cautioned about speaking in the presence of those comatose or dying. And we still absorb the element of what we are listening to, in our sleep, I can personally attest to that. Yup.

    However, with regard to the voice we listen to, and its calibre and quality, you're right. I mention in another thread, finding it difficult to listen to a speaker because her voice was ... particularly irksome on the ear.... getting over that and hearing the message was a challenge, but the subject interested me so much, I overcame the difficulty, I'm glad to say.

    I think headphone-listening is great, but in some cases it can be anti-social, and quite distracting. I don't listen to educational stuff in the car, that's not a companionable thing, because if I listen, I'm not focusing on my driving as much as I ought. And I'm not one who finds it comfortable to cut myself off from others around me. I prefer to be aware and fully cognisant...

    Reading, I love, but you have to set aside time for it. You can't read AND wash up/do chores....
    And if I am engrossed in reading, I like to 'get into it' and read as much as I want. I don't like to think of having to stop to attend to other things, like cooking dinner, or having to do something else.... I resent it!

    So quite a few quandaries there..!

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    My concentration and focus has never been particularly good when studying, reading for pleasure is different. Many years ago I had to take a long, informal questionnaire. Like usual my attention would wander and I wasn't making much progress, but being informal I was able to get up and walk around while taking it and the result was like magic, I was totally able to just focus in on the test and quickly went through it.

    Since learning through listening can be done while active I find it much easier to take it in. And there are lots of opportunities take in knowledge through listening now that audiobooks and podcasts are so available that weren't available when having to set aside time just for reading.

    Voice is important, I also think we take in much of the emotional quality of the speaker as well. So listening to HHDL has a different effect on us than Alex Jones even if they were to say the same things with the same intonation.

  • Ever since I got an unlimited account for my smartphone, I can listen to favorite teacher Dhamma talks on my hour-long drives just by searching their names on Youtube (Amaro, Sumedho) or looking up the rich Dhamma talk listings on the Amaravati site.

    I also enjoy lay teacher Josh Korda’s podcast blending Buddhism and neuroscience. One exception to listening is Thanissaro Bhikkhu — his pragmatic, practical and earthy Dhamma guidance has been essential to me. But I prefer to read him (through links on his several Facebook pages maintained by adherants) as opposed to listening to his talks. I find his deep, bass voice hard to listen to for long.

  • @Kerome said:
    Do you have a preference for how you take in teachings?

    With attention, I prefer reading. The important thing is take in and digest. Hearing is not always listening. Reading is not always 'wising up' ...

    Who knew? ;)

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Listening or reading?

    I don't really have a preference ...It's more a case of where the mood take me :)

    Hmm however I think of reading as listening to self mentally regurgitating the printed word... which I guess in this sense reading is also a form of listening :)

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