Healthcare today gives a lot of emphasis on efficiency, technology and expert knowledge. After over twenty years of practice I have to say that the most effective tool I bring to my professional practice is the quality of my attention. Those other qualities are important, but when I am poised to listen, the potential for a positive change opens up more than any of those other things have to offer.
Listening is a life practice. And I think there is no end to it’s possibilities. The first time I remember listening completely was with my husband. It was twenty-eight years ago and I can still remember the moment, sitting in a hotel room on a Marriage Encounter weekend, practicing the active listening they were teaching us. I was aware of physically feeling his emotions and finally understood what it was like for him. That moment was the starting point of some big changes in our relationship. Years later, we were going through a rough time in the relationship. We healed hurts and rebuilt trust by simply sitting across from each other for long periods at the end of the day. We gave each other complete attention, to the point of noticing our breath.
In my professional life, listening is the word used in visceral manipulation to describe the process of finding the primary restriction in the body. This type of listening is awesome because it makes my treatments more effective. And it provides me with a practice that teaches me about myself, and helps me develop mental stability and physical relaxation throughout my day. Interestingly, when I am too enmeshed in the other person’s field, I cannot find the primary restriction well. When I am too concerned about my schedule and what is next, I can’t find the primary restrictions well. When I am aware of my own body as separate from the other person and I keep my mind on the moment, I can better find what is happening in their body as far as where the tension lies.
Listening is a basic principle of embodied awareness. Listening is something we do with our body and mind. We can listen to ourselves and our bodies, as well as listening to others.
You can start practicing this principle immediately. Try it in your relationships and relatings through the day. Position yourself to hear what someone is saying to you and attempt to repeat it back to them, when appropriate to make sure you heard them correctly. Provide affirmations, rather than judgments (I didn’t say this was easy). Simply attempt to understand what they are trying to say. Then let me know your experience!
There is a lot to be said about listening, so I will share some links that offer more reflection on the topic: http://www.sacredlistening.com/tlc_about.htm. These are a couple of great books about listening as a spiritual practice.
http://socialthinking.com/books-products/all-products/u-z?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=313&category_id=50 This is a poster for kids on Whole Body Listening
Full Body Presence, Suzanne Scurlock-Durana. A book for with a therapists bent on exercises to practice presence, which is listening!