I believe that when somebody speaks to us, 95% of the time we don't listen. Listening is a supreme art. We usually have a stack of images in our brains. An image about our society, American society, an image about our wives, our husbands, kids, friends, gods, nature. When somebody speaks to us, the image corresponding to the speaker pops in front of us. That image is nothing but the result of a collection of our experiences with that person with our unique characteristic features in receiving/accepting/rejecting/adapting to those experiences. Our mind processes the words of the speaker through that filter of image and we actually listen to an interpreted version of the spoken words.
I believe, that in rare circumstances, say, when we are in a meditative state (when you're 100% devoted to your task, that is meditation!!) or in a trance (I forget myself when I am seeing a very good movie, listening to very good music) or at absolute peace with ourselves, all those images are numbed and we can listen without any hindrance to what is being said. I believe we all rarely listen. But I can't prove it.
--Originally posted on CP on 10th April, 2006