Tuesday, March 10, 2015

10 ways to cultivate the power of listening

I had created an intention at the end of 2013 that I wanted to "find my tribe of amazing goddesses." I didn't even realize I wanted this until I was sitting my the fireplace at my parents house in Maine working through Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map program. Through some meditation, walks in the snow, and lots of hot drinks, my heart was buzzing with the need to be in circle. To be heard. To speak my truth, my experiences, to let down my guard. All new territory for me.

I returned to Seattle and sure enough, the power of manifestation emerged. In January 2014, I was invited to be part of a circle that met monthly on the New Moon. I have been part of this circle ever since. I had found my tribe of amazing goddesses. Our circle pulsates with energy, vulnerability, love, and authenticity. We use a talking stick. We chant. Every month, I walk away reminded that the power is really in the listening.

My whole life up until about five years ago was about doing a whole lot of doing, being, speaking, running, working, and serving. All my energy really was pouring outward and onto the world, leaving me feeling depleted. Despite my daily practices of yoga, meditation, and spiritual study, I continued to struggle with the energy output. As an introvert, I knew I was operating my life in an inauthentic manner. Giving way too much to things and people that didn't bring me joy, bliss, nourishment, and ease. Looking back on this time in my life, I realized I wasn't really listening to my deepest desires.

Tuning into our hearts is by far one of the most sacred acts I know. By accessing our inner listening, it can change the whole course of our lives and how we relate to and in the world. In my conversations and experiences, especially since returning from India, I see more clearly that in the end, all of us want to be heard, loved, and feel a sense of belonging. Yet, when we aren't feeling these things so much in our lives, usually we are left with resentment, depletion, and a sense of "WTF?" And usually, we have turned off our internal listening device (i.e. our heart, soul, compass, etc.) and stop listening altogether.

When I discovered that the power is truly in the listening, it opened up gates for me that I didn't even know existed. Insights flooded me at rapid speed. I started to let go of the resentment, engaged in things that brought me joy, and felt not only lighter, but felt I could be a contribution more than ever.

What I am noticing is that there is a whole lot of doing & being and not a whole lot of listening. So what does this really mean from where I'm sitting? Well, for one thing, I don't know anything for sure. That was the biggest lesson I brought back from India. Sure, I have a lot of opinions, my own heart truths, and thoughts, but in the end, I don't know anything for sure. Before India, I was running myself into the ground. Burning the candle at both ends, neglecting my self-care, abandoning quiet time and reflection, and letting my life run on auto-pilot. During my trip, I reflected on all of this and came back recommitted to getting back to basics and my true desires. Below are some ideas and strategies on how to cultivate a sense of listening in a world with a lot of noise.

*Make the time for quiet. Everyday. Let's all just be honest here. The world is noisy. When I made the move to Seattle from living in a small, mountain town in Colorado, I felt like my ears were always on fire. Urban living brings with it environmental noise, whether we like it or not. Our brains and ears need rest. Whether you find time in the woods, kill the radio during your commute, setup a meditation space in your house, or you purchase noise canceling headphones, get intimate with quiet time. And schedule it.

*Be in the body. My meditation teacher gave me golden advice. You want to tune into the present moment? Notice what's going on in your body. Being in the body can take so many forms. A yoga practice, a walk, or if you are like me, I like lying down on the floor on my belly for five minutes after I get home from work. Feeling the breath in my belly and riding the wave in inhales and exhales is so juicy. I can notice what may be open, closed, sticky, and tight. A body scan is a surefire way to tune in fast.

*Hold space for circle. In my early days of being part of circle, I used to get frustrated with the talking stick. The rules of talking stick/object are simple: When you have the stick, you talk. When you don't you listen. I realized my frustration came from my need to always have something to say; advice, empathy, personal experience. I got off that real fast and started realizing that just by my listening I can take a stand for someone else's experience. Oh yeah, circle can be two people, 10 people, or 100 people. Also, if you want one and haven't been able to find one, start your own.

*Writing. I always frown when I hear people say, "I'm not a writer. I suck at writing." We all have story to tell, we all have thoughts in our head. Writing for me takes many forms; lists, journaling, my blog, random ideas, morning pages, etc. Set a timer, even 10 minutes and free write. I love writing because there is a connection to being in the body (the moving of the hand across the page), and the tuning in. It's amazing what can come out on the page. A few simple prompts to start with: What am I feeling? How is my body? What's bothering me? What brings me joy?

*Hug trees. Literally, yes, you can go out and hug a tree, and what I mean by this is to connect with the outside world in some capacity. Not only is being outside good for you (Vitamin D, breathing fresh, clean air, getting up from sitting), but it can be so nourishing and act as a "reset" for body, mind, and soul. I used to be an adrenaline junkie in my early twenties; climbing, biking, skiing, and jumping at every opportunity to go hard and fast in my sports. When I was battling Lyme disease and healing from the inside out, I fell in love with walking. It's so lovely to walk and explore. A great article on walking.

*Know thyself. I love Susan Cain's work on introversion. Her book and Ted Talk made me not only feel validated as an introvert, but it provides really good insight on how to walk in the world as an introvert. Not only is it important to realize your own true nature and what brings you energy and joy and nourishment, but it helps you in supporting others in your life.

*Gratitude as a practice. Go find a pocket notebook and write down five things you are grateful for. Do it right now. Keep doing it. Every day. For 30 days. It is a game changer in how we tune in to what is going well. We exchange gratitude at our dinner table and believe me, I have to dig sometimes; the automatic timer on the coffee maker, comfy socks, Skype. It all counts. A study on gratitude and why it's good for us.

*Simplify. As we get older, we all have this tendency to accumulate more stuff. Material goods, sentimental objects, appointments, contacts, information. One of my Core Desired Feelings is Spacious and a huge part of creating this in my own life is paring down. Getting rid. Streamlining. Dumping. Donating. And saying no. It is truly a game changer. When we clear out, we open up more space for the love, joy, bliss, and ease to come in. I love Courtney Carver's blog and also this book as starting points to simplify and live with a little less.

*Conversations are not linear. My dear friend and mentor, who is an Organizational Development consultant, goes into organizations and teams and helps them work better together. He recently visited and shared with me something that I totally fell in love with. Conversations are not linear. It's okay to circle back, walk away sometimes, take a time out, especially in tough conversations and interactions. It was a great reminder that space is sometimes the best solution and things don't need to always have a resolution in the moment. By creating space, we can listen for what is truly there for us.

*Commit to radical acts of self-care. I hear more and more people say, "I haven't been taking care of myself," and that makes me sad. When we aren't operating at our best, how can we be the contribution we want to be in the world? How can we show up for our partners, kids, parents, colleagues, and friends? Do one thing this month/week/day that takes care of you. A hot bath, a yoga class, playing with art supplies, maybe a solo brunch date or sitting on a bench sipping your coffee. Whatever it is, do that. I know for me, my standby self-care is a monthly massage. I schedule them out 3-6 months ahead, budget it, and treat it like a standing appointment with my boss. If I do nothing else, that massage can make a world of difference. An inspiring resource for self-care.

Again, all of these are just ideas. They are simply things I have found that work for me. Tap into who you are and listen to what you are craving and do that.