I think the art of listening is on the verge of being lost. Not all that long ago, two people could have a conversation without interruption. One person would listen attentively while the other spoke, and then vice versa.
Intuition or gut instinct ran rampant, albeit in an underground sort of way, because listening to ourselves was easier. There just weren’t as many distractions or disruptions keeping us from our ability to sit in silence and just be.
Where once listening came relatively easily to many, now even those of us for whom this skill once came naturally, now require effort and clear intention in order to do it effectively. And without our even realizing it, some of us have lost this proficiency all together.
An inability to listen is rarely intentional. Sure, we may tune others out, but when we do so, it’s usually by choice. Yet when we struggle to listen to someone or something in which we have an interest, that suggests a waning skill.
These days it seems next to impossible to be able to complete a sentence without being interrupted by something. A child in need, a pet wanting attention, a text or email alert, a phone call, a visitor, abrupt noises…it is becoming increasingly difficult to have one singular conversation, and even more difficult to experience complete silence.
Deciphering our inner genius amidst all of the other sounds traveling through our heads has increasingly become a challenge.
Since we exist in the world of perpetual motion, we now must make the intentional effort to slow down or stop. But it isn’t just the movement that has to cease in order to listen, so do our thoughts.
Listening during change.
Change often adds to our activity and thought processes. Planning and preparing when we have some clarity around the future; wondering, worrying and even pushing ourselves when we don’t.
Sometimes change takes us by surprise, but had we been paying closer attention and listening to ourselves and our environment, we might have heard it coming well before its arrival.
I believe that taking time to listen is an important practice whether or not we are transitioning to change, but it is especially important when adjusting to something new, because change can uncover misalignment:
And so today I offer some simple prompts for flexing our listening muscles. The next post will take us one step further with an examination into expanding and contracting our attention to listen for different things.
Remember to breathe.
A few years ago, I realized that I had forgotten how to breathe. I didn't know when or how it happened, but what I did know was that my breaths were short and shallow and this type of breathing had become my default.
Shallow breathing has become more common in our world as a result of increased stressors in our lives. Even through breathing is second nature, deep breathing, unfortunately for many of us, is not.
A Harvard Medical School study found that shallow breathing is not only a sign of health-related issues, it is also a contributing factor to many of them. So the more stress, the shallower our breathing, and the shallower we breathe, the more prone we are to additional stressors, such as increased health issues.
How to breathe.
While super easy in theory, deep breathing takes effort and focus. Here's the basic approach:
Here's an interesting resource that offers many different breathing techniques which focus on improving our metabolism.
We are frequently told that we need to move our bodies regularly in order to maintain optimal physical health. And I agree with this sentiment. For those of us who lead relatively sedentary lives, motion is important, not only for physical health, but also for mental and physical health.
However, for those of us out there who are seemingly always moving, perhaps not with a running or weight-lifting regimen, but with work, kids, family, travel or what have you, I suggest that taking time to stop moving is equally important.
Taking ourselves out of our comfort zones, which was also touched upon in the last post, is a great way to invoke our senses, making it easier for us to listen.
For those of us who could use more motion in our lives, taking a walk while practicing some deep breathing techniques helps us to counter our normal state.
For those who are always in motion, taking a break by finding a nice, quiet, comfortable space and sitting or lying down when practicing deep breathing is a good way to go.
Coming up next - tuning in and tuning out.
Now that we've uncovered the basics to listening, breathing and contrasting motion, we can explore the world of expanding and contracting, or what I like to call, tuning in and tuning out. More on this and a wrap-up to our theme of creating space for change, next time.
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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