Close your eyes and listen. Name 5 sounds you hear.
Now, close your eyes again and listen a bit more closely. What is the closest sound you can hear? The sound furthest away? What is the quietest sound?
Ok, now that you are in tuned into your sense of hearing, let’s talk about listening.
The off-the-top-of-my-head stages of listening:
- Hearing the sound. Screech! Beep, beep, beep.
- Understanding the sound (prescribing meaning to the sound). The garbage truck is backing up.
- Hearing the sound and noticing the feeling in the sound. Look out! Danger! Alert!
- Hearing the sound and noticing and claiming your own response to it. For me, anxiety, frustration, tension in my stomach. Sensitive Ear Girl hates the abrupt, annoying noise.
In conversation with another person, the stages may look like this:
- She’s speaking. I hear words.
- Oh, she wants me to pick up some eggs at the store.
- Hmmm, she sounds stressed. Her body is tense. I wonder if she is having a hard day?
- Wow. As she is talking to me, I’m starting to feel stressed and tense. This tension and pressure is building in my stomach and chest.
Listening versus Magical Listening
I was in an Ortho-bionomy workshop the weekend before last. We practiced this exercise that really demonstrated the power of Magical Listening.
And yes, I know I haven’t described what makes listening magical yet. I will soon. Rest assured. 🙂
We were in pairs. One person told a story about something difficult or challenging or painful happening in their life. The other listened.
As the listener, I watched as my partner went from being quite upset and frustrated, to being sad and depressed, to being angry and then…. to describing insight after insight into what this event meant within the full context of her life.
Epiphany after epiphany rolled out of her. Her energy went from heavy and stuck to flowing and excited. An injury that was associated with her story released a bit and she suddenly experienced more ease of movement and less pain in that part of her body.
All I did was listen.
Ok, that’s not all I did. We’re still getting to that. 🙂
First, have you ever been in a situation where a friend is coming to you, distraught, with some painful story?
As a listener, what did you do?
Perhaps you listened quietly. Perhaps you interrupted and offered a different perspective. Perhaps you gave some thoughtful advice.
Yes, they did feel better. They were comforted and heard – very powerful, necessary things.
What if, however, it is possible for them to *also* receive insight, resolution and transformation?
That’s the difference between listening and Magical Listening.
Listening is Stage 3 – hearing the words and paying attention to body language and the underlying emotion and feelings as someone is talking.
Magical Listening is Stage 4 – noticing what happens in you as the other is speaking.
Paying attention to yourself and your own responses while engaged with another is what makes Magical Listening possible. It creates this incredible sense of safety and connection.
It allows for the other person to feel heard and comforted, yes. It also allows them re-find their own sense of wellbeing and to receive insights about their stuff from themselves.
(How and Why this occurs is the subject for another time.)
Now, there is a bit more to it than just noticing your own reactions and responses as the other speaks. Specifically, there are 3 parts:
Release (re-find your own sense of wellbeing)
Through reading these words you are, in a sense, listening to me. And, you are likely experiencing some kind of response. Tune into that response.
What do you notice…
…in your thoughts?
…in your emotions?
…in the sensations in your body?
Whatever it is (calmness, boredom, anxiety, tension, tightness, expansiveness…), just notice it. Just allow it to be there.
Notice – Feel – Release
Now that you’ve noticed your own response to my words, you can acknowledge it and let yourself feel it.
For instance: hmmm, there is this pressure in my throat and tension in my stomach. I’m feeling anxious – not sure if I’m doing this right or if I can do it at all.
Often, just noticing and acknowledging your response is enough for it to let go and for you to return to a place of greater calm and wellbeing.
Other-times, it may take a bit more mindfulness to let go of whatever arises in you.
The quickest and easiest way I know to release tension is to exaggerate it, hold the exaggeration, and then let it go on its own.
For instance: I place my awareness on the pressure in my throat and use my mind to consciously increase the pressure there.
For the gripping in my stomach, I can clench my stomach a bit tighter, exaggerating that pattern of tension in my body.
With emotions, I find and exaggerate the physical sensations associated with for example, anxiety, in my body OR I can simply intensify the emotion itself.
What about that urge to help?
Or to interrupt? To offer suggestions? Or advice?
Same thing. Notice the urge, find the physical sensations associated with the urge in your body, consciously exaggerate the urge and then, let it go.
For all of the above, being in Owl Eyes helps immensely – Owl Eyes allows you to feel the feelings without becoming overwhelmed by them.
Magical Listening isn’t easy, at least not at first. It takes play and practice.
It requires listening to yourself through monitoring your emotions, your sensations, your urges, and then not acting on any of them externally.
Instead, all of the work happens inside of you. You notice your reaction, you allow yourself to fully feel it and then… you let it go.
You change yourself.
You return to your sense of wellbeing.
Through re-connecting with your wellbeing, you energetically model how to return to wellbeing for your friend.
A deep sense of safety, connection and comfort is established and your friend begins to experience increased wellbeing simply due to your Magical Listening skills. Insights, transformation and resolution of patterns becomes possible.
It feel like magic. It is magic.
I love to hear your thoughts, however deep or mundane. Just saying hi works too. 🙂
What does this whole concept of Magical Listening spark in you? Have you ever listened in this way (or been listened to)?
It makes me think about conversations you have with really calm people, even when you’re so far from calm, and they just sit there and absorb and nod and comfort without seeming to do anything. Notice in that scenario I’m not on the calm side? Ever? 😉
So I tried it, the next time a coworker came up to me with something I tried to listen and notice and holy cats it’s gonna take some practice!
Wow! That’s so fantastic – that you’ve already given it a try.
Yes, it definitely *does* take a lot of practice, perhaps a lifetime of practice! It is, however, a skill that can be developed – with time and a lot of patience. 🙂
i am totally going to try that.
(found via @alightheart on twitter)
Awesome post 🙂 it’s amazing how just listening to someone can help them feel validated. Magical listening is something I aim for but reading this has helped make the process a lot more conscious, thanks!
Larisa Koehn says
Fantastic! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
Yes! That’s it exactly. I think a lot of people are naturally really good listeners. And, making the process conscious can take the listening to an entirely new level. At least, that’s what I’m playing with now.
It also allows me the freedom to be myself and not get pulled into others story of the moment, and hopefully if I can embody more of my authentic self in the moment, they can also do the same.
Sarah Lambert says
I love how this post brings us into the action of listening from the beginning, and deepens from there. I just returned from leading a support group in which I engaged in this kind of listening…it had some amazing effects, and it’s so simple. This is a great gift, thank you for sharing.
That’s it! Yes, you take care of yourself (while staying connected to the other) and then they are able to take care of themselves. Quite beautiful, really.
Thank you. 🙂
Thrilled that you were able to put this tool to conscious use already. Yay!
Great blog, great post!
I love this. I would consider this a practice in loving kindness to ourselves and the one we are listening to.
Absolutely. Well said!
kathleen Noonan says
you have expressed this in a way that speaks to all of us and yet the message is a powerful one- to live in this way. Thank you!
Thanks for the post, listening is an art form, good info!
I love the color palette of your site, very calm and arresting, that blue and green. Nice!
So nice to see you here, Kathy!
Aw, thanks! My designer is quite wonderful. http://www.kittendesign.com
Wonderful post! I think I’ve been practicing part of this for a while: I try to resist the urge to comment, allow for silence to happen, and then often the other party will find more to say from within themselves and explore their thoughts and feelings. Or I would ask rather than comment to try and break circles and broaden views. What I haven’t done yet is explore any other things than the urge to respond happening in me and working my way through them. Thanks for offering more ways to experiment and becoming a better listener!
Isn’t it an amazing process? How, without a word, just through our presence, the other gains all these insights on their own? I love it!
And, in my experience, allowing them the space to discover their own insights (vs me telling them the same thing) leads to much deeper and more lasting understandings. It’s awesome.
Thanks for stopping past and sharing your experiences! And, the best to you in your continued exploration.
Jill Chivers says
love this post – what I especially appreciate about the process is the attention the listener is bringing back to themselves, to their own well-being.
would you be intersted in chatting with me about me sharing this post with my own readers? Let me know…