The Art of Inner Listening
Listen to the body. The body is a doorway in.
The body carries innate wisdom and emotional information. To access this information you need to learn the body’s language. Everyone’s emotional-body language is slightly different. Some will sense images and pictures, others will intuit voiceless words, others will have a felt sense of understanding or knowing and any combination of the above.
Learning this skill of listening comes with some initial difficulties. We live in a fast paced, mentally driven world. How many times have you heard someone say “I live in my head”? Body talk is somehow slower AND also immediate, depending. Listening to body talk is a skill and practice and just like anything new, it takes a little time to learn. Body sensations are typically vague, subtle, hard to describe.
Use your body and your breath to sink deeper and deeper into your internal world. Use your body and your breath to sink past the world of the rational mind. Don’t ask or expect the thoughts to stop, sink past them. Begin to notice what else there is to notice besides the thought-generating mind. Remind yourself to keep going deeper. There are many areas that will unfold and open as you continue to be present and focused internally.
Learning a simple form of meditation will aide you in your ability to listen. Tell your rational brain you’ll be right back in 5-10 minutes (set a timer!). Tell yourself to put aside yesterday and the past and put aside thoughts of later today and the future. Give your brain a place to focus - feeling your body breathe or your heart beat are excellent focus points. Use these focus points to anchor yourself to the present moment. Your mind will drift off focus, when you catch that you are off course, return to your focus point without judgement. One essence of meditation is that it puts you in touch with the observer part of the brain. The observer part of the brain can track many things at once. How many times can you be participating in a business meeting and also be thinking about what to cook for dinner and hoping your teenager is in a good mood when you get home? Meditation introduces you to your observer self. The observer knows the focus of the exercise is to feel yourself breathing, it tracks when you get off course thinking about the dry cleaning and the observer says “Hey! You’re supposed to be focusing on the breath!” The observer mind is the nonjudgmental witness. The mind likes to jump around, and meditation strengthens the focus muscle. Overtime, that focus muscle can become like a laser, which is useful when you are trying to cut through inner chatter. The goal is not to quiet the mind. The mind can create a lot of chatter and static - just like a radio station. Learning to meditate teaches you how to change the station and change the volume. Your observer self is an excellent ally when emotions are intense. Being in observer mode is different than avoidance mode. Observer mode is more like person reporting the weather - they don’t have to be outside in the storm getting drenched to announce that it is raining.
Inner listening is for checking in with different parts of the body, the emotional body, the pain body, the higher self or wise self. A major obstacle to listening is that many people avoid their own body. Our bodies can be full of anxiety or pain. Our minds are full of cruel judgements: “I’m too fat, too gross, too dumb.” We avoid the body and live in our heads, but often our minds are exhausted with carrying the entirety of our experience. To give the mind a rest, focus on sensation in the body. Does this sensation have a shape? Color? Temperature? Texture? Movement? Does this sensation have a voice? The body doesn’t lie. Feeling is different than thinking, doing, blaming, judging. This journey is not a linear process. You won’t first clear the anxiety and fear and then drop the judgement only to finally be able to communicate inside. You do the work from all angles. The emotional body and pain body respond swiftly to even an ounce of attention.
People who identify as highly intelligent vs highly creative will have a different process learning to feel into the emotional body. The thinking brain will want the process to move quickly with immediate answers. It takes patience to slow the process down and allow the feeling/creative brain a chance to speak up. It can be like 3 people in a conversation and two of them are rapid talkers and the third one is just trying to get a word in edgewise. The conscious mind asks “What am I supposed to do?” The thinking brain jumps right in with a run on story, an old pattern or a diversion. All the while, the feeling body and creative brain are waiting patiently to talk.
This is the grace and the medicine and the power of awareness. Feelings in a balanced state have a natural expiration. They will dissipate. When you use awareness to feel into the feeling and hear what it has to express, the feeling will move. After reading an email, you may reply and then you delete the email. If you are not reading your feeling emails, then they start to pile up. If you’re not reading your feelings, they have a way of getting louder and louder, trying to get your attention. If you try to resist or avoid, the feelings turn sideways and twisted trying find their way to open air.
The heart is the primary organ of perception. Using it allows you to quicken the path to healing solutions. The heart can see further ahead. It has a different vantage point and can cut through chatter, static and bullshit.