Skills in Active Embodied Listening.

So much of my experiences in relationship this week has been pointing me back to the necessity for active embodied listening, not just in therapy but in life. It’s a skill, quite aside from ‘opening’ the ears, to slow down and detach from the momentum of the thinking interpreting mind! How often do we ‘listen’ to folks but not really get what they are saying because our own script is running? Often!!

The same can be said for how we relate to our body senses. I notice for myself and others that often there is a ‘scripting’ which shapes our senses as we interpret the present-time communication from our bodies. Again, scripts speed up our reactions to what is happening so we often miss what else is there. Our relationships to our sensations can be blurred by our busy inner ‘Scribe’, evaluating and making stories about them, categorising and framing them in experiences from our past. For example: when noticing a pain in the neck, this would become a story either about an injury, a stressful workload or a disease perhaps, which then leads us to experience emotions and reactions which fit that story. Do you have examples of this coming to you? What would happen if you noticed the sensation, noticed the reaction you were preparing for and stopped; took a breath, and opened your curious mind to details of this momentary sensation.

There are several skills we can learn for this to happen. One is to pause in reaction and notice, be curious about our sensations, where they are, what they are like, get familiar with them and to NOT attach a story. The skill is to stop the story taking us on a pathway to feeling more or less than what we noticed in the first place, and to return to the actual sensation.

Another skill is to find objective descriptor words to capture the details of the present experience: ‘tight’, ‘fizzy’, ‘warm’; and locate the sensations ‘at the base of my neck on the right side near the spine’; whilst resisting the urge to evaluate it or attach it to a story/scenario with a beginning, middle and end! This practice is not about denying the potential truth in any of our stories/scripts. It’s about awareness how we get caught and then miss other potential truths or details which are more real here and now and can support us to respond more freely, rather than being bound to react to what we feel.

In my therapy and coaching work with clients, I help to strengthen these skills with them, to help bring more clarity to their relationships with their embodied experience and their truth. I support bringing back a non-judgmental understanding of embodied sensation and experience in the present moment. I do this by encouraging my clients to locate and find words and movements for the sensations they are able to feel, giving time to hear and eventually to separate out any stories about the feeling, and acknowledging what is ‘present’ and what is ‘past’.

My bodymind movement classes, apart from being a wonderful time and space for self-care and gentle movement, offer a unique way to be in this practice I’ve described. A participant put it: “Moving Body Wisdom classes take us deep into a body-meditation… as well as direct experience and deep inner listening, we are immersed in an extended process that brings insight and new levels of understanding.”

When enough time is given to naming details of what we feel, recognising the stories/scripts becomes easier also. We can feel the impact of this deeper listening around them, as we free ourselves and feel more liberated to connect our experience in the now with what is happening now!

Befriending is about engaged listening and communication to build a rapport that is two-way. There are simple structured communication practices that can help cultivate listening and this is key to my approach to individual therapy, coaching and my movement exploration groups. I long for more of us to listen more deeply to one another and am passionate about facilitating that listening wherever I can.

Contact me if you are interested how my therapeutic and group work might enhance your relationship to yourself and others.