I am a decent listener in some aspects. In other areas, not so much. First off, I love to talk. I love to express and I love to share. You would think that would make me a terrible listener. However, I ultimately enjoy making authentic connections with others, and I know enough to know that you can’t connect with people unless you REALLY listen to them and take a genuine interest in what they have to say. It’s called “being a good conversationalist” and I think I have that on lockdown. However, there is always room for improvement.
Listening is mostly about humility. It’s about putting down our own urgency of thought, and our own desperate need to express. Humility inspires us to consider the fact that there might be other forces out there that we can learn from. And we can’t learn if we think we know everything. And we certainly can’t listen if we’re talking.
I do believe there are various forms of productive listening, and not all listening boils down to shutting the fuck up. I mean, that’s part of it, but it’s not the whole picture.
LISTENING TO YOUR BODY
One of the most invaluable skills I have perfected in my 41 years of living, is the art of listening to my body.
I am a hyper-sensitive human being and also a borderline hypochondriac. So actually, listening to my body has never been a problem for me. If anything, sometimes I listen too intently! However, when life is making lots of noise, even the most astute body-listeners can sometimes ignore the subtle messages coming from their flesh temples.
First, it’s important to remember that our bodies are SO wise. I think most people stop right there because they don’t fundamentally trust in the own innate wisdom of their own bodies. But our body’s job, 100% of the time, is to keep us healthy. That’s all it knows how to do, and that’s all it cares about. However, it does speak its own language (that we would be wise to learn). And it does work and heal and transform in its own time (that we would be wise to accept and understand).
Start to try to learn the way your body communicates to you. Begin to accept the fact that your health will benefit from letting your body lead the way. Pay attention to the signs and signals from your body. It’s talking to you all of the time.
If you need to eat, your body will tell you. Your tummy will feel weird or you might get lightheaded. This one is a no-brainer. Sometimes, people also listen to their bodies and recognize the messages, but choose to ignore them. Hunger is one of those things that many people can ignore if they are struggling with self-care, self-destructive behaviors, or are just too damn busy to bother.
Whether you are listening or not, your body is talking to you and will always tell you when it needs food.
ACHES AND PAINS
If all is well in your body, for the most part, you will feel little to no pain on a daily basis. Aches and pains, even subtle ones, are early indications of things to come. Sometimes, as we age, pain can’t be helped. My family has a history of arthritis, and I often have subtle aches and pains that I manage on a daily basis. But in the case of arthritis, my body feels better when I move it every day. So even though I don’t have a magic wand to eliminate the issue, the aches and pains are my body’s way of saying, “Hey, walk me today, my joints need to stay lubricated and flexible. You know what happens when you don’t walk me every day, so please let’s go outside and do this!”
I have also learned that simply moving my body doesn’t always help with stiffness. I also apply various essential oils to my lower back, before I step into the shower. This in combination with a daily walk does wonders to minimize my aches.
I discuss more about the benefits of essential oils in my article, MY TOP 8 FAVORITE ESSENTIAL OILS.
Some body pains are much, much more serious. If you are experiencing any kind of pain in your body for an extended period of time, you should visit your doctor and give your body some serious attention. Pain does not arise for no reason. It always means something.
To all of my fellow hypochondriacs, don’t panic. I don’t mean that the pain you’ve had in your wrist for three days is cancer. But chronic pain that persists (for weeks or months), or pain that is severe, should be taken seriously.
Because I am stiff in my body when I wake up, I have begun to practice the art of listening to my body every morning, and doing what it tells me to do. It sounds kinda crazy, but it’s really easy once you train yourself to listen in the correct way.
- Stand upright and relaxed with your feet hip-width apart and your eyes closed.
- Take a breath or two, just to quiet your mind.
- Ask your body (out loud or in your mind), “What do you need from me right now?” or some variation of that.
Your body does not talk in words, so don’t expect to hear (with your ears) an actual response, although you might. Instead, your body communicates to you through feel. Perhaps after a few seconds, you start to feel an urge in your body to arch your back, or take a long and deep breath. Or, maybe you feel the need to all of a sudden do a few neck rolls. Suddenly, you might realize you are extremely thirsty and out of nowhere, crave a glass of water. Trust all of these urges and let your body show you the way.
It takes practice to block out the ego mind that is trying to “talk” to you with actual words. These messages might be trying to use logic. For instance, your ego voice might say, “Well, you slept really funny last night and your lower back hurts so you should probably do some twists.” But your body might actually have a better way of loosening up that lower back, and it might surprise you. It might be a position that doesn’t seem to make any logical sense, but once you do it, you will be amazed by the wisdom presented to you.
Listen to your body and learn its way of communicating with you. It will always be through feelings and sensations. If this language is rather foreign to you, it’s okay. You can learn to cultivate this aptitude. It’s never too late to develop a close relationship with your body. But you must let your body lead and you must learn its language. Humble yourself to your body and let its wisdom engulf you.
LISTENING TO NATURE
Recently, I have been guided to listen more, particularly in nature, and it’s been a bit of a struggle.
I love, honor, and respect Mother Nature more than anything. I have had an ongoing relationship with her for years now, but it’s like any relationship. There are twists and turns, ups and downs, and no one’s perfect. Except her. But yeah, I’m on a journey with nature, and practicing humility in this arena is the only way for me to learn.
I actually just stepped outside with my partner for an after dinner breath of beautiful fresh, spring air. Wow, was it gorgeous. And wow, did I have trouble shutting up. I was simultaneously LOVING the symphony of birds and rustling leaves, while also fighting the urge to speak. At first, the birds lost and I was ruler of our backyard domain with regards to sound output. It was like I had a need to share whatever thought popped into my head, for fear of losing it.
Eventually, just like in meditation, after the mind goes berserk and then settles down, I did as well. And I just listened. And after a few full minutes of silence between us (my partner wrote the book on silence and he was in his comfort zone), a gentle breeze carried through the air. I inhaled the fragrance of sweet grass and other vegetation, and just enjoyed.
In that moment, I realized that this was Mother Nature’s way of thanking me for my quiet peace and humility in that moment, and encouraging more! Like all relationships, there should always be a give and take. On this evening, I gave my open presence to her (once I settled down), and she then gifted me with her brilliant, luminescent, healing scents and feels.
I have found that the more I give to her, the more she gives in return. She is waiting to have relationships with all of us, she really is. But it must begin with our reverence towards her. If we think we know everything about her, and we constantly put ourselves before her, she will never open to us in full vulnerability and love.
Mother Nature talks to us all of the time. Her messages are profound, loving, and honest. Have you ever just sat under a tree for 30 minutes? The next time you are working through a problem, just go sit under a tree for a bit. I guarantee you, you will have an elevated perspective when you leave the comfort of Mr. Tree and his teachings.
Please try to be reverent in all ways with regards to Mother Nature. Learn to speak her language as well and just listen to her. She deserves it.
LISTENING IN RELATIONSHIPS
Relationships are nothing if not education stations for challenges, self-reflection, and growth.
My partner and I both struggle (but often succeed) with listening to each other, as do most couples. He’s a good listener, but sometimes he gets caught up in mansplaining and his capacity to listen becomes greatly diminished. However, he’s a therapist and is literally a professional listener, so I really can’t complain.
As for me, I struggle a bit with listening when it comes to really wanting to get my point across or make him see my side of things. Ultimately, I really just want him to change his mind and think the way I want him to at all times.
This is really dangerous, however, when I begin to cross a boundary with him that makes him feel uncomfortable and downright violated. He often gently tries to push back and set his boundary, and I often don’t hear it, or don’t want to hear it. So I can keep pushing. Finally, I can tell when he’s getting really upset, and I always try to pull back at this point. However, it shouldn’t take him getting really upset for me to pull back and allow him his thoughts and opinions. But sometimes, I just don’t hear when he’s setting a boundary. Or maybe I do hear it, but I proceed anyway.
Whatever I’m doing, I need to do it better. But sometimes, it just takes time to learn new ways of listening to someone. Men and women also speak COMPLETELY different languages, like for real. So being together in an intimate relationship requires a bit of bilingual intelligence. This is the shit they don’t tell you in Rom-Coms.
If you love someone and respect them immensely, you must do whatever it takes to learn their language and truly listen to them. And you must insist they do the same for you. That’s love.
QUIETING YOUR MIND TO MAKE ROOM FOR MESSAGES
My biggest struggle is managing my mental chatter. Meditation helps, I know. But I don’t
usually ever opt for that. Gosh, I should really start again.
Like my Mother Nature moment this evening, when it took me a good few minutes to really calm down and stop talking, I think meditation is similar. I found that for the first few minutes of meditating, my mind would just race, and talk, and chatter, and spew. And I actually had to allow this. Then, all of a sudden, it would kind of go blank, like magic. And everything became calm. My mind was still very awake, but just so much more quiet.
I know it sounds crazy, but when I was meditating daily, I found that my ability to calmly listen to my partner was recognizably improved. Even he noticed a difference. My reaction to crises and mini-dramas was much more mellow (unheard of for me!). And my mind just became more open to messages, insight, and epiphanies. Again, I need to get back into it, I know.
Learning to listen will improve so many areas of your life.
The world is such a wise place and has so much to share with us. How can we possibly have it all figured out without the input of the forces around us? We must listen to let it all in.
Do you struggle with listening like I do? When do you wrestle most with zipping it? What ways are you good at listening? I would love to hear from you 🙂
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Featured photo by Hayes Potter on Unsplash
Walking photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash
Water photo by Jack B on Unsplash