Sunday, April 18, 2010

Learning to Listen

I skipped Friday’s FWL post for two reasons…one, I was so busy working on my new PMDD website I didn’t even realize it was Friday until mid-afternoon and two, I already had it in my mind I wanted to continue this theme of listening. Last Sunday I talked about the importance of having one, just one person who will listen to you, your joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams. More than one is always great, if only to give your listener a break (smile), but also to provide different perspectives on whatever it is you are sharing.

But only one will do, if that person is a true friend and a good listener. Still, there are so many people who don’t even one person in their lives they can count on to listen to them, just listen. So if you have one, consider yourself blessed beyond measure. And if you don’t—be the change you want to see in your life. Try listening, really listening, to someone else first. I think you’ll be surprised at the results :).

I find that talking things out with a listener helps to clarify things in my own mind. They don’t even have to do anything but listen, either in person, or on the phone. The same is true of writing. When you journal, your “listener” can be anyone you choose. I like to think of mine as God. I’m sharing my thoughts with God, who has proven to me many times over that He does indeed listen.

Then, on Wednesday, I talked about listening to your body. I think a lot of us forget we even have bodies, unless some part of that body is making life uncomfortable or inconveniencing us. We operate mostly in our heads, and ignore the needs of our bodies for healthy food, rest, relaxation, and exercise. Instead we fill our bodies with whatever food is handy, quick and convenient, load up on caffeine and energy drinks to keep us going, and give lip service to wanting to relax and exercise more.

I don’t exercise because I want to, trust me. I exercise because if I don’t, my body will let me know it with aches and pains and stiffness and creaky knees. Oh, and an overall sluggish feeling that makes me long to lay around and just do nothing. Which, when I give in, gets me nothing but more aches and pains and stiffness and creaky knees.

Just another example of how our bodies speak to us, letting us know what we need to stay strong and healthy. So listening to them is important if we want them to serve us well.

But today I want to talk about another kind of listening. Listening to that voice within. Some call it God, some call it Tao, some call it Mother Wisdom. Whatever you call it, it is vital that you take some time out every day to listen to it. Otherwise you’re nothing more than a hamster on a wheel, running, running, running, with no sense of where you’re going, and getting nowhere. Every moment of your day is filled with doing, not being. And when you fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day, you have no sense of being further ahead than you were the day before…whatever your “ahead” might consist of.

My favorite time for listening is just before and right after I open my eyes after sleeping. I tend to rise to consciousness slowly, and find my best thoughts of the day are the ones that float into my mind before my brain takes over, kicking in with my mental to-do list for the day. Some of my most creative thoughts occur then, but unless I write them down, once my day starts, almost always those thoughts are forgotten within minutes of getting out of bed. Still, I know that’s when I listen best. I also know that if I don’t wake up that way, if the alarm or phone startles me awake, I miss out on that early morning moment of peace and feel grumpy. So I try to go to sleep at the same time each night and wake up naturally.

Another time I listen well is while driving. To do this I need to turn off the CD player and drive in silence. (Talking on the phone while driving, for me, is not an option.) For those of us who can’t seem to make the time to sit still and listen for a few moments each day, listening while driving might work. You bring yourself into the moment and focus on nothing but what you are doing right then—driving. For most of us, driving is automatic, so our minds are free to listen. The same can be done while doing dishes, or folding laundry, gardening, or cleaning.

You don’t have to stop and literally sit still to hear your inner voice. Nor do you have to take up meditation or yoga to hear what’s in your heart. Life gives us many opportunities to listen throughout our days. We just have to learn to relax and accept them.

Silence is a great source of strength. ~ Lao Tzu

P.S. I wrote this post yesterday morning. Imagine my surprise when last night I went to Mass, and the priest who substituted for our regular priest gave his homily on this very subject. He talked about turning off our phones and ipods and all those things that supposedly keep us ‘connected’ and taking time to just listen, instead. I'll take that as a message that I'm on track :)


Mona Risk said...

Great post liana. You always force us to look deep in ourselves.

I consider myself lucky I have a husband who listens. Do I listen to him as much? I think so. I often guess the things he means and can't express. With my friends I listen more than I talk. I realized long ago that they have trouble understanding my dreams, my drive, the pressure I put on myself, but I seem to be the right person for them to come to when they need support, when they want to whisper a secret problem.

Now I wish I can listen to my body screaming, relax and go to sleep.

liana laverentz said...

Something that annoys me as a teacher are parents who walk down the street with their child or sit on a bus with their child, and they have the ipod in their ears or are talking on the cell phone. Talk/Listen to your child.

We have Before School Program, School, After School Program...some parents drop their child off at 8 a.m., and don't pick up that child until 5/6 p.m. And what do I see them do as they walk out the school door? Not have a conversation with the child they haven't seen for 9/10 hours, but put the ear plugs in their ear and listen to whatever it is they listen to on those things. Have a conversation with your child! Listen to how his day has been! You should be excited to see and be with your child.

Everytime I see parents with ear plugs in their ears and a child walking 10 paces behind or along side, I want to yank out the plugs and throw the ipod in the street.

Posted for an anonymous reader.

Mary Ricksen said...

I think I am a good listener. The problem for me is finding a person who will reciprocate and listen to me. No one really wants to hear it.
Great post Liana. Made me think.

Erin Aslin said...

Great topic, Liana. You surely listen to your inner's obvious your written words come from that "inner' place. Very refreshing. Thanks for this post

Debra St. John said...

Fabulous post, Liana.

Thanks for the great reminder to sit back and listen...

jodi said...

people who don't talk to their kids annoy me too. :)