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The Art of Listening

Listening
Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash

Let me listen to me and not to them. – Gertrude Stein

Listening is an art. It’s a vital part of communication. We listen to learn, to understand, to make the other feel witnessed.

But how well do we listen to ourselves?

Our minds are full of chatter. They’re also full of different voices. The voices of our parents, teachers and peers. The voice of perfectionism, fear and deprecation.

The other voices continue in an endless loop and do quite a job in the background. They become part of the noise that turns white that we barely notice. Make no mistake, though, those voices are orchestrating a good part of our lives.

At the same time our wise, true voice speaks. However, too often we minimize that voice and magnify the others.

Until we listen, nothing changes.

I recently noticed my inner commentary on my lack of ability to play. It made me sad. I thought I had lost the knack. That I had forgotten how to have fun. That I was a dull girl, all work, no play.

I noticed because I had stopped and listened. I hit pause. I didn’t dismiss it or brush it away. I really listened.

Here’s what I heard:

Play is frivolous. It’s what you do when your work is done. Furthermore, adult fun involves high energy, adrenaline-soaked activities that have to be done somewhere “away” and costs money. Just like those TV commercials and ads for “active seniors”. Therefore, my play/fun is too small and insignificant and, consequently, not worthy of my time. Hey, go big or go home, right?

Wrong!

That was the loop that was running in the background. That was the driver. Therefore, if I was going to hear my wise, true voice I needed to move the conversation down to my heart.

Here’s how I reframed the conversation:

Play can be that thing I’m already doing after I’ve put it into a different light. It can be, lighter, less linear, more whimsical, pleasurable, silly, intuitive. My play is specific to me and anyone else I choose to have as part of the activity. It is not what I see on those pharma ads for seniors or what I see on Facebook or Instagram. Those feel shaming. Play can be fun; fun doesn’t need to be play. Play for me could be coffee and good conversation with a sister that includes laughter and silliness; a walk at the lake with a friend as we compete with our last best pace. It could be a satisfying yoga class. Play is a state of mind.

Here’s how Diane Ackerman defines play in her book, Deep Play.

“The spirit of play is spontaneity, discovery and being open to new challenges. As a result, it allows one to happily develop new skills, test one’s limits, stretch them and then maybe refine the skills and redefine the limits.”

That feels so much better. Play is not always idle; it reaches deep inside and moves us.

Getting back to listening.

If you paused and really listened to your wise and true voice, what would you learn? Would you discover that there is a tape running that is sooo out of date? Would you gently let that old chatter go (or maybe dropkick it to the curb? I don’t know how tenacious it is!)

I know you will learn something vital. For instance, you may learn that you, too, are looking at an idea through someone else’s lens and that the view doesn’t work for you anymore.

Pause and listen more often. Just be aware and noticing. You might be surprised at what you hear and how much lighter you feel when you change the tape.

As always, if you need some support as you hone your listening skills, please contact me to see how we can work together to assemble the small steps that will move you back to your own wise and true voice.

Find the Thread

Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found.  – James Russell Lowell

What do we do with an idea?

I am rising out of sleep, not quite awake. It’s 4 AM. Half in/half out of a dream. Seemingly disparate photos slipping away. They get fainter and fainter. Just the sentence “Find the thread and follow it in” remains.

I grasp for the images. But they will not be caught. Pfft! Gone. The who, what, where and why go with them. Just the one line remains.

Find the thread and follow it in.

Writing in my head

I often wake to words that stay with me. I start writing in my head.

While I sometimes reach for something to write on, more often I don’t want to disturb the flow that runs so easily in the quiet dark. In the relaxed body state where I’m melted into the bedding, where my body hasn’t awakened but my mind is gearing up. Many of my blog posts start there.

How about you?

Where do things start for you? What quickens your imagination and shifts your thoughts to possibilities? Opportunities? A project in the studio or around the house, a job or life change?

What do you do with the idea once it arrives? Dismiss it or explore it?  How would it feel to grab that thread and see where it takes you? Recognizing where it starts and allowing your process to take over can be the difference between a dream realized and a dream deferred.

Once the idea is allowed to live, what is your process to get started?

Do you feed it with small questions? Talk it over with a supportive friend or coach? Do you allow yourself to daydream? (Yes, daydreaming is a productive activity!) Do you make a list? Do you sketch it out, mind map it, doodle it? Do you look around at what’s out there to find what you like and, sometimes more importantly, what you don’t like.

Most importantly, do you let it emerge in its time, like a butterfly out of its chrysalis?

For me, with writing, it is often starts in that half asleep state. Rather than dismiss it I let it take its own course. It could be hours or days before anything gets onto the page. That’s okay. I find that the theme will linger for a few days in my waking-up time and show me more. I also find that it will spark other ideas. Those spark more and so on.

Intentional Creativity

This is intentional creativity and it is available to us 24/7. In our dreaming and in our waking. When you’re aware of how ideas take hold – when you’re able to recognize your thread – you become aware of your creative process. This will take so much of the struggle out. Your awareness will provide a magic carpet that you can ride into anything. Your process is as unique as you. Go with it.

If you’d like to explore how a creativity coach (that would be me!) could help you with your process schedule a free discovery session. I’m a very good thread detective.

Happy Cats

Happiness is like a cat. If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you… But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you’ll find it rubbing up against your legs and jumping into your lap.”

~ Dr. William J. Bennett, American author and educator

This post isn’t specifically about happiness or cats. However, if you can imagine being in a situation where a contented cat (literally or figuratively) is purring on your lap… was that a smile?

The real reason for this blog is to pose a question and invite you into a conversation.

The question:  Are you at a point in life where you’re not sure what’s next? Not in the sense of “should I do the dishes or watch the news”. But rather, a wondering about what is next for you in the bigger scope of life, pondering who you were meant to be, wondering how your next chapter will read. You’re not miserable, but just not particularly a contented cat.

According to Carl Jung this, along with some other deep questions, is our job in the second half of life.

Perhaps you’ve been in a certain career, on a particular path, or in a role for a while now. It no longer lights you up. Something is off but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You could stay the course, coast along, but that doesn’t feel good.

Is there another “gig” in my future, you ponder? If so, what is it? Or, you might wonder, Is it too late for something new? Can there be a “what’s next” for me? What could it be?

What if I told you that it’s really none of your business?

You’d probably sputter, roll your eyes, snicker.

I’ll say it again. What’s next for you in this beautiful journey of life is none of your business.

(Let’s qualify this with the assumption that your basic needs – physiological and safety – are being met. If so, we can continue this conversation.)

Paying attention is your business.

Awareness is always a good place to start.

Years ago, I worked with a great lady who used to start her daily huddles with the reminder “Radar on, Antenna Up!” I quote her frequently. This is such a great call to attention and a way to monitor and refocus that attention.

Because, when we sit and stew about what’s next, we create walls of worry.

But, when we ratchet up our awareness and curiosity, we create paths.

When we fixate on only one possible solution, we miss out on possibilities we may never have considered.

When we don’t believe there are possibilities, we shut them out. When we believe they’re there, we let them in.

When we look ahead with anticipation and trust toward what seems to be a hazy destination, the journey is a joyful one.

This is not hocus-pocus or Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz clicking her heels and chanting “I do believe.” This is about implementing awareness and curiosity and paying attention to what shows up.

Let go of the struggle

Does this sound anti-goal or plan? Its not. I love purpose and aspiration.  It’s just that I have come to see the value in letting go of the struggle. That is what impedes the creative process. And, make no mistake, it is your creative process that leads to the next best stage.

So, this is our business: Awareness, curiosity, anticipation and trust. Living in an open-ended question that guides us in the direction of our highest good. Taking the small steps, listening with our ears and body, adjusting our course and taking more steps. Knowing instinctively when you’ve arrived at the next place.

And then it’s about the happy cat leaping onto your lap.

I’d love to hear how this lands for you. Please leave a comment below.

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