Listening into myself through others – Part 3: Nourishing the skill of listening

As I mentioned, I am a driven person.  It is easy for me to become immersed in a task and lose all sense of time. This includes anything from spending my time with people, to working on a given project. It has motivated me with regards to my work and finding balance in my life. Thankfully I have an internal timing mechanism that presents as neural pain that reminds me at regular intervals throughout the day to take a short  break, exercise regularly or to simply stretch. I have developed impeccable body awareness because physical discomfort is part of my daily experience. Over time, I have learned to tap into another listening skill (my inner voice) to inherently know what my body needs when signalling various physical symptoms. Most importantly I manage my physical discomfort on a daily basis to maintain balance for myself.

My symptoms are intimate physical cues to preserve my body and soul, tuning in to listening to what I need.  I choose to experience this in an empowering way of me knowing and understanding where my boundaries are. By listening to myself and my needs, the balance I have in my life is so much more powerful than just pushing myself through things. Ironically, it’s a physical gift!

Through listening so intently to myself, I have found that people are naturally drawn to sharing their personal stories with me.  I have allowed myself the space to do my best thinking within my own power zone and can cultivate that space for another.

It is necessary as the listener to listen to understand what the other is really wanting to communicate. I had to really listen to my body’s plea’s, which meant I had to adjust my posture or take a break to reduce my symptoms rather than just pushing through a given task. Listening is directly related to our emotional connection and vested interest in the other person. It becomes necessary to monitor our own triggers, listening to ourselves first, which allows optimal interpersonal communication to be effective. This relationship that we build within ourselves strengthens the relationships that we can bring forward in our day to day lives.

Sincere gratitude to all my lecturers and fellow classmates at SACAP for facilitating this learning process for me.

Listening into myself through others – Part 2 – The difference between hearing and listening

As a start, I needed to understand the difference between listening and hearing.  Listening is defined by the Business dictionary as “mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another.” On the other hand, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hearing as “perceiving sound; specifically… noises and tones received as stimuli”.  Nancy Kline goes on further to say that listening ignites the thinking of the speaker by giving them one’s full authentic attention.

At SACAP I was able to experience listening first hand. As an exercise we each came up with a “challenge” and then spoke it through whilst one of our fellow classmates listened with their full attention.  When I started, it felt like I was talking myself into a web. Suddenly there was this “A-ha” moment in which I realised the solution that was congruent to my value system. It became apparent that others interrupted me when I spoke which broke my train of thought.    

This caused frustration, which brought my awareness to how I was doing the same to others. I would interrupt, ask questions and literally make myself anxious in the process. With practice, I learned that each time a thought popped into my head, instead of voicing it, it became a cue for me to refocus, and redirect  my full attention back to the speaker. Exercising this, I had to push through my anxiety, trust their process and re-establish my boundaries of listening without taking on too much.

I learned that to really listen to others I have to listen to myself first. Listening intently to my own needs without allowing my inner critic to enter the space, I realised that I have the answers within.

My existential anxiety is an active force / energy that drives me forwards. It fuels me to act, sometimes interrupting others keeping things in motion, giving me purpose and meaning in my daily life.  Therefore, I’ve learned to be mindful of allowing others enough space to ensure that they have completed their thinking without me jumping straight in to have my say.

In Part 3 of this post I will discuss how I personally have cultivated the art of listening.

Listening into myself through others: Part 1 – my introduction to SACAP

“People do their best thinking when given the space without interruption.” – Nancy Kline

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I decided to register for a coaching diploma at The South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP). I  was under the impression that my clients were looking to me for answers.  Little did I know that by giving them the opportunity to talk without interruption, they would have their own best answer.

This active listening skill raised my anxiety, as I wanted to share my own insights with my clients as they popped into my head. I wanted to give advice, and simply offer a solution to their problem so that everything could be okay, but it’s not that simple!  I’m an empath by nature, and I don’t like to see another distressed! Knowing that I could provide my solution to their problem helped me to feel less anxious, as if I had been able to make a difference in their life.

I literally thought that by signing up for the course, I’d immediately attain some form of wisdom as if I were given a key to unlock the “wise woman” part of me.  Thereafter, I would learn a list of skills that I would be able to apply to my life overnight and that I would know “everything”. Little did I understand that “this knowing”  was actually a process of far greater self-reflection and introspection that demanded discipline, commitment, and consistency.

Interestingly, I started my studies in my early 40’s which Eric Erikson identified in his psychosocial model as “middle adulthood.” Erikson identifies at this stage that we are conflicted between generativity versus stagnation.  Generativity means wanting to share one’s knowledge and experiences with the next generation (other’s). Stagnation means feeling stuck similar to being in a rut. Although I was an older student, it was therefore highly appropriate that I was studying, as I had entered into a stage of my life that I wanted to grow and engage with others on a deeper level.  I found great relief in his theory, consolidating my desire to nurture another’s infinite growth, development and inherent strength. Ultimately, my learning was to listen rather than to give advice.

Before I knew it I was writing assignments and I had to reflect on my life at a deep level – a place I didn’t think that I would need to delve into in order to “listen” to someone else.  My levels of anxiety heightened and I found myself feeling fairly low at times. Whats more, I was “in it” and for me there was nowhere to go, but to get through it – trust me there were parts of me that were constantly searching for reasons to end my journey prematurely! Each module triggered a different part of me, and I found myself submerged in a state of constant reflection and analysis going through an unexpected period of  immense growth as a human being.

The benefits of actual listening are immense: the skill provides a secure base for trust to grow and develop; friendships and relationships deepen, and genuine self-care can be cultivated. In Part 2 of this post, I will speak into the skill of really listening.

We are all beautiful in our own way – Part 2: Silencing the inner critic

In my last blogpost, I brought up the importance of redirecting our thoughts so that we can
keep ourselves in the most positive frame of mind and life. Now, we’ll delve into how to go
about doing this.

To break this pattern, I consciously choose to see only that which is beautiful and perfect in
others, yet they often have the same challenges of an inner critic that I have. Over the years, I
constantly battled with my loud inner-critic. In the past, this has kept me in a place of low
self-esteem, with a low self-concept. I’ve looked into the expectations that I have of myself,
and I’ve realized that they very often aren’t realistic or attainable. Subconsciously, I’ve been
setting myself up for my inner-critic to have a field day!

Finding the balance within, and creating a win-win situation for me is essential. First of all, I
accept that my inner-critic is speaking and needs to be heard. Secondly, I choose to
acknowledge that it’s there and that what it is saying could or could not be true. Thirdly, I
redirect my attention towards embracing what I have/celebrating my uniqueness thereby
silencing the inner-critic, and freeing me up to optimize what I have in my life!

Ultimately, we are all beautiful in a unique way – the physical does not define our worth!

Others see the beauty in me, and I choose to see the beauty in them. Why not embrace our own
beauty and perfection? Anyway, having a functional body, and being equipped with hearing,
sight, and a voice, is far more empowering than an “aesthetically perfect body”. Let’s stand
together and embrace those parts of ourselves that are not perfect but that is still deserving of
real love. Essentially, it’s these parts that make us who we are – those quirky, unique,
beautiful parts of us that keep us alive, walking, reaching out for something to eat or assisting
another human being. The physical body is far more than a mere physical structure that
“holds” our organs together, it’s our inherent “Wabi-Sabi,” (that temple that homes and
cherishes our soul for our life here on Earth.)

Invest the energy that you would otherwise use to fuel your inner-critic instead in lifestyle
changes that nurture you and add to your overall well-being by finding balance in the basics
like your eating habits, exercise routine, and relaxation preference. By choosing to focus
on the beauty of our physical bodies, even if you are only able to start on the smallest part –
like a freckle on your skin that makes you uniquely beautiful. And then go on and spread the
love, highlighting the beauty and goodness in others too.

Ultimately, we are the physical reality of our thoughts, so start by monitoring your thoughts
and manifesting your best possible reality!

We are all beautiful in our own way – Part 1

Recently I was introduced to Dr. Caroline Leaf’s work on Cognitive Neuroscience by a new
friend. Dr. Leaf speaks into the scientifically supported impact that our thoughts have on our
physical and emotional health. My friend went on to tell me how he consistently works on
maintaining a healthy, positive attitude in his life – which is evident in his joyful and uplifting
energy. However, he tends to be hard on himself with regards to what he desires as an
ideal body image.

Upon reflection, I found that I do my utmost to focus on the positives in my life, and reframe
negative situations. This enables me to find meaning, purpose, and grace in most situations,
even those that I choose to see as lessons. While it sounds easy, this process can get really
hard in today’s world because of the constant stream of negative information that is fed to us
through social media and various communication channels. That said, Dr. Leaf’s work has
helped me to develop a new awareness of positive thinking, that motivates me into taking
positive action. Positive thinking for me includes extending positive thought processes to the
people around us, especially when they impact our lives in direct and indirect ways. (As they
say, “Your vibe attracts your tribe!”)

I’ve found that reframing situations in line with positive thought processes is very doable and
becomes driven by action! The biggest challenge, however, is that inner critic that exists
within. We all have it, that voice that takes us to that one place where we feel disheartened
and simply not good enough, no matter what we do. Constantly channeling us to focus on
what we believe the worst part about ourselves. I’m sure you know the one I’m talking

A chat with our self-critic often begins with our physical appearance, as we strive to become
what we think others will find attractive. This is often influenced by false, airbrushed
celebrity perfection and what the media portrays as “ideal.” It’s good to remember that we
will always find attractive in others that part of us which we perceive as missing in ourselves,
developing a hype around what we think others would want in us in order to feel accepted.
Simply put, this is usually unattainable for various reasons, genetic or otherwise, and we are
left feeling even more empty and inadequate. Sadly, this filters into self-criticism and
judgment toward self.

In Part 2 of this blog-post, we’ll explore a practical method to redirect our attention away
from that inner-critic, and channel it towards a more constructive and healthy direction.

5 Steps to Starting Afresh – Navigating Change

In life, we often experience 360 degrees of change in very short periods of time.
These may feel daunting, unfair or simply overwhelming.
However, this is merely an opportunity to trust the process and to breathe new life into something different!

Let’s look at five ways to keep your cool and navigate through the storm:

1. Sometimes we just need to start moving in a direction to gain insight into where we are possibly going.  Instead of being nervous and getting stuck allow yourself to let go and allow yourself to be driven by that energy through action.

2. Be confident, believe in yourself and trust the process.  Know that you have the ability and if not you will have a fabulous opportunity to learn new life skills.

3. Try a “new way”  – there is always hope, and remember to choose life. To do something different you have to do something new – trust that this storm is helping you to do something you’ve never done before – feel the excitement and own it as your new-found power, congratulations!  

4. Allow yourself to make “mistakes” as they are a beautiful opportunity to gain wisdom in life – but first we need to be open to being the student.  Seize the opportunity to take full responsibility to learn as much as you can during this time of exponential growth.

5. You are many possible selves, the teacher, the student –  remember that learning from our mistakes qualifies us for a teacher position, one with insight.  Sometimes experience is the greatest teacher and you can’t learn everything from a book. Knowing that as much as you learn you can teach others one day and to help them to grow. Sometimes having this motivation can drive us even further to learn that much more.