The new year is traditionally a time of resolution. We take stock of the past year and decide how we’d like to change or do better. We renunciate what isn’t working and are filled with a renewed sense of hope. We are infused with a sense of possibility and confidence in our ability to achieve the goals or outcomes we may have missed over the past year.
Suddenly, as the clock turns 12:00 A.M. and we cross the threshold into the next year, it’s as if for just a moment we are free of the weight of our problems. The next year sparkles ahead blissfully unformed with the vast spaciousness and room to finally make our dreams a reality.
Our New Years Resolutions give us the opportunity to re-start the game and re-commit ourselves to our fundamental values and truths. We get to hit refresh and come back to the deeper core of what’s important to us with renewed vigor.
The question is, why do we have to wait to give ourselves a second chance to succeed or “do better” in life?
Why do we wait until January 1st to re-start our gym regime, eat the foods we know make us feel best, get the sleep we need, end a toxic relationship, swear off Netflix or social media, or quit one of the numerous addictive habits we have?
Today, I would like to talk about what I call the art of embodied listening or the embodiment of listening. We live in a world in which information is continuously bombarding us. I think that it’s safe to say that we live in an age of informational and technological overload. We are exposed to a collective of thoughts, feelings, and energies that are in an ever-evolving stasis of cross-pollination. In fact, it’s entirely impossible to avoid each other’s influence.
The Overwhelm Baseline
I’m sure you’ve heard or even expressed the statement, “I am going to go be alone with my thoughts,” before. Have you ever wondered why the idea of being “alone with our thoughts,” seems so much more of a rarity in today’s time? It’s as if it’s suddenly become outlandish to have any semblance of alone time or space to connect and be with ourselves. To turn down the volume of our world we usually have to go on retreat or escape to an environment that has limited access to wifi and cell phone service.
We have to actively “practice,” pursue and seek the places of silence and stillness within the cacophony of our lives. It is no wonder that we have largely lost the art of inner listening. Inner listening is a quintessential building block for our care and nurturing, ability to make sense of the color, texture, and shape of our world, and is the guiding force that illuminates our path forward.
Discovering Our Inner Sanctuary
To safely navigate through the wilds of our lives, it is imperative that we have an inner sanctuary to come home to. To reiterate, when we are constantly overloaded by our outer-world, our inner world becomes so over-full that it can be a challenge to hear our inner voice. It can also be difficult to discern what we think and how we feel. Have you ever been in the situation where you and a friend are trying to decide what to do, and neither of you can make a decision? This is an excellent example of not being connected to your inner voice and sanctum.
Our desire and ability to lean into the guiding force of our inner voice is affected by many different circumstances.The overwhelming nature of our world is but one of these circumstances. If we are highly sensitive, we have an even greater propensity to losing touch with our inner voice. Our conditioning around our right to take up space and stand up for our truth and beliefs can also tremendously impact how connected to our inner voice we are.
Our socioeconomic status, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and ethnicity can drastically shape our relationship to our inner voice. The way our primary caregivers nurtured our confidence and independence also influence our ability to stay anchored and connected to our inner voice.
What is Embodied Listening?
Embodied listening is the vehicle through which we can learn to amplify our connection to our inner voice. How do we begin to re-establish our connection to this vital mechanism integral to maintaining our sanity in the world? Cultivating the art of embodied listening means that we can attune to our physical bodies signals, sensations, and cues.
Through mindfulness and presence practice we can begin to decode the unique language of our physical system. Our physical body is an outward manifestation of our thoughts, feelings, and the deeper wells of our unconscious psyche. Embodied listening happens when we can interpret and listen to the deeper communication of our inner world.
Our bodies are incredibly sensitive to our environment. Our bodies will instantaneously shift in response to whether we feel threatened or safe. Our physical body and energetic field will contract or expand depending on whether we felt relaxed and nourished or stressed.
The Practice of Embodied Listening
As a practice, you might try turning your attention and awareness to your body for a day. As you go about your day, notice with curiosity in what situations is your body contracting and expanding. Notice if there are specific circumstances, places, or people that make you feel expansive and in connection with life, or disconnected and tense in your body.
This practice is a simple awareness exercise that can help you to cultivate the first level of embodied listening. If you were just able to implement this practice your life would begin to drastically transform.
From this vantage point of embodied listening, knowing the exact foods that are most optimal for our body and the exact type of nurturing or self-care we need becomes quite effortless. Making a decision or setting a boundary doesn’t feel confusing or burdensome. Discerning between our need for connection and alone time couldn’t be easier.
The clarity through which we can access our personal truths, values, and preferences feel exponentially more accessible.
Once we are able to strengthen our connection to our inner voice, no matter what arises in our present moment experience we always have an inner home to return to. We are able to effortlessly access the higher wisdom of how to best care and nurture ourselves. We are able to consider and make decisions with greater confidence and clarity. We are able to implicitly trust and lean into the knowledge that we can catch ourselves no matter how massive the leap or vast the fall.