One of the greatest gifts anyone can offer me is to make me feel truly heard. Like they care what I have to say and how I feel, no judgment or trying to fix me. The gift of a safe space to hash things out and express what is on my mind and heart so that I can heal and gain clarity and have the courage to move forward. I shared how this might have helped me when, as a teen, I wanted to die.
I don’t need you to tell me what to do. I usually already know. But when you *hear* me I feel loved, I release shame, and I gain courage to take yet another step into who and how I choose to be in the world.
But here’s another truth: we turn to coaches and counselors, sisters and girlfriends to be heard… but do we offer ourselves the same precious gift? Do we practice hearing and honoring ourselves first, offering our own person the grace and compassion that we seek from others? Do we have the courage to look inward and learn to listen to what our minds, bodies, and spirits are telling us?
This needs to be the starting place. We need to learn to listen. To ourselves.
We read every new book that comes out, travel to conferences, jump at the chance to hear that guest speaker. We constantly gather information, jump on board with the new fad, eagerly try out the new pill or the new program. Hoping that we will find the answer we seek outside of ourselves.
Talking with our best friends, offering our well-thought out opinions on social media and monthly meet-ups with a life coach all serve a purpose. But becoming more clearly ourselves, figuring out who we want to be, what we need, identifying the real passion or gifts we want to bring to the world, putting our finger on the place of unrest, the root of our dis-ease, these all come as we learn to listen ~ to ourselves.
We so desperately want to be heard so let us practice hearing ourselves.
With practice we become better attuned to what our minds, bodies, and spirits are speaking; quicker to trust the still, small voice. More confident that we already know what it is we need, or that the answer will come, and we have only to still ourselves and listen.
We can practice listening in myriad ways but today I want to offer some questions we might use as we practice pause, go inward, and learn to listen.
1. At the end of the day, we can take a few calming breaths and simply ask “how did my day go today?” We might take note of 3 things we are grateful for, 2 things we did well today, 1 thing we would do differently next time. In this way, we can begin to live more mindfully.
2. When strong emotions bubble up we can get alone for a minute and ask “what am I feeling right now?” The spilled milk is probably not the real issue; it is more likely that there is a deeper root of fear or overwhelm lurking beneath the surface.
We can create space for tears if need be (please create space for tears!), remind ourselves that our feelings are not bad (not rage, nor fear, anger, sadness, grief, loneliness, pleasure or delight) and pay attention to where that emotion lives in our body – in our tense shoulders, our temples, our clenched fists or jaw, that throbbing pain in our legs? We will begin to see more clearly the connection between our feelings and our physical symptoms.
3. If a strong urge to binge arises whether on Netflix, sleep, food or alcohol, we can notice, pause and listen in after asking “What do I truly need right now?” We might notice that we are physically or emotionally hungry, incredibly tired, afraid or excited.
When we do go ahead and eat or take some downtime we can check in and ask “Is this truly nourishing me?” as a way of getting clearer on what it is that actually makes us feel well fed and rested so that we begin to live more intentionally rather than on autopilot.
4. Before pressing ‘buy now’ or signing up for that course or saying yes to one more engagement we can breathe and pause (perhaps take a 24-hour pause) and ask “will this truly serve me right now?” We might consider if it aligns with our current financial or life goals or if it honors the season we are in.
We might question if we even truly like, need, have room for this new item, food or experience or if we are simply afraid of missing out, acting on impulse, numbing or following the crowd. And little by little we will begin to live more authentically.
5. In the heat of the moment when we want to lash out, honk the horn, yell at the kids or leave a nasty reply on Facebook, we can choose to back away and ask ourselves “who do I choose to be?” We cannot control other people or all circumstances but we do decide for ourselves how to respond and speak and treat others.
In creating a pause we will make wiser decisions about when and how to speak up and when to walk away. We will hear and honor that inner wisdom that we so often ignore when adrenalin roars or cortisol spikes.
6. When we are anxious and too busy and feeling like if someone adds just one more task to our tippy mile-high pile of to-do’s we will break, we can gently set down the load and ask “what do I need to let go of?” No one else can swoop in and reprioritize for us. No coach or decluttering guru or spiritual advisor knows your life inside and out like you do, although they can come alongside and support you.
I bet you already know what it is that you need to release in this season but it might feel scary and hard. So let’s take the pause, acknowledge the feelings that come up, but learn to listen to what our mind, body, and spirit are speaking.
Often the first thing we do when excited, anxious or afraid is seek the support, direction or affirmation of others.
But I believe that greater wisdom comes when we first pause, go inward, and learn to listen.