Stop and Listen

man cupping his ear to listen

Sit down and be comfortable.

Try doing this outside or by an open window.

In a moment close your eyes and take a full minute to simply listen.

That’ll be your only task for that minute. Just listen.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Go ahead, I’ll be here when you get back.


Are you back? How was that for you?

Did you discover more sounds than you’d initially anticipated?

Did you enjoy just listening and not having to do anything with what you heard?

I bet you didn’t have to strain and stress over listening.

And I bet you didn’t judge that a sound was right or wrong or good or bad. It just was.

What you just experienced is what I call being receptive.

It means that you’re open to receiving information through your senses—in this case, your hearing—but you’ve no expectations of what you’re going to receive.

You’re not making any immediate judgment about or analyzing what information you receive.

You’re just noticing what you notice.

When it comes to yourself though, it’s harder to just be receptive to information from within you. Even just for a few moments.

When you start to practice listening to your body it can be difficult to stay in that receptive state.

And not slip into a reactive state.

It’s all too easy to start judging whether something is right or wrong. Or good or bad.

As you react by judging, you’ll try to do something to fix that thing you think is wrong or bad.

You may notice that your back is tight and arched forward.

So, you react by doing something—maybe tucking your pelvis under to flatten your back out (not a strategy I suggest by the way).

Or you may notice that your shoulders feel tight.

So, you react by doing something—stretching them and rolling them around to get them to be less tight.

If you can practice just being receptive, even if only for a few moments—and not reactive—you may be rewarded by noticing some subtle things—that you otherwise wouldn’t notice—that’ll help you.

Most importantly you may notice some small but important things that you’re doing in the moment that might not be terribly helpful.

Things you could choose to stop or do less of.

You might notice that you’re subtly squeezing and compressing yourself through the shoulders.

And you could give yourself the invitation to do a little less of that.

You might realize that you’ve been sitting or standing or doing whatever you’ve been doing for too long.

And your back is tired and you need to stop what you’re doing and take a break.

Your back might enjoy lying down on the floor for a few minutes in the Constructive Rest position to give it a chance to let go. Or if you can’t lie down you might like to go for a walk.

Any work on your posture has to start with noticing what’s going on within you.

Because the answer to improving things often starts with stopping or doing less of the things that you’re already doing that aren’t helpful.

Learning to listen to your body and be receptive—not reactive is a skill.

Skills need to be practiced.

Sit down again or stand and be comfortable.

In a moment take a full minute to simply listen to your body.

That will be your only task for that minute. Just listen to yourself.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Go ahead, I’ll be here when you get back.

Are you back? How was that for you? What did you notice? What are you doing right now that might not be helpful? And could you invite yourself to do less of it?

Photo: Shutterstock/Billion Photos

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