Ways to listen: repetition

Repetition is one of the less obvious ways to reach a place of quiet and listening, but it works with a wide variety of activities. The reason I’ve grouped these all together is that they all work by using the same principle: the repeated activity distracts the part of your brain that usually does all of the talking, either by taking up its attention or by convincing it that nothing interesting is going on, and thereby makes space for other parts.

Movement is one mode of repetition. A wide variety of motions can work: walking, dancing, running, swimming. My experience is that a relatively steady pace or simple pattern works best for lulling the mind.

Words can also work, when either sung or chanted repetitively. You can also choose words that themselves are helpful to you. When I do this, I often find that the meaning shifts as I repeat the words over and over, and that often itself is an interesting practice!

In a larger sense, this is also one of the ways that ritual and practice work: they are repeated movements on a large scale — daily, weekly, seasonally, annually — that form containers for deepening experience.

What am I missing? Which of these works for you?

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