I need to raise my listening game

 

I’ve been listening intently to my body in recent weeks. Although my stress levels are low, I’m keen to home in on stress that does arise so I can nip it in the bud. I’m on a medication for the short-term, and I want to avoid taking it for the long-term: one of the main actions I can take to support that aim is to reduce my stress. This requires me to really raise my listening game.

When I start to listen deeply, I’m amazed by what I hear – there’s so much nuance of reaction going on in me which I couldn’t hear before. And this is in someone who is a professional listener: to others, and to my own body and thoughts.

 

Stress response kicks in

What is becoming crystal-clear is the short, tight link between my thoughts and physical response. I don’t have to be thinking catastrophic, fearful thoughts – it could be just a tiny negative or judgemental thought in a knee-jerk response to something I see or hear, and I can physically feel that little zing, that tiny jolt of adrenaline as my stress response kicks in.

It happens so fast. Seeming almost instantaneous, my heartbeat speeds up, my breathing tightens and shallows, my shoulders, arms and jaw tense. My eyes narrow slightly and my whole face tightens. Wow. All that, simply in response to my thinking something like ‘They don’t know what they’re saying – that’s just wrong!’

 

More choice in dealing with thoughts

The shift in realisation for me is huge. I’ve known and felt for decades how the body responds to thought – that’s so much of what I work with in Alexander Technique, releasing physical and mental tension to allow ease in body and mind. But I’ve never appreciated how such a tiny and isolated thought can elicit such a palpable physical stress response.

I’ve greatly fine-tuned my listening to my body over the years. Daily meditation has reduced much of the background noise of stress and reaction, allowing me to hear the quieter, more subtle aspects of my body and thoughts. This gives me more choice in dealing with thoughts as they arise. I notice them arising sooner, and can then discern their quality – are they based in love or in fear?

 

Gentleness and acceptance

I feel real hope of significantly reducing my stress with my newly focused and refined listening powers. The glorious bonus to this is the spiritual benefit that naturally ensues. As I let go those stress-inducing negative or judgemental thoughts occurring – the ones based in fear rather than love – something else needs to fill that space. What I’m putting in that space now is a beautiful reminder from Matt Kahn, ‘Whatever arises, love that’, inviting gentleness and acceptance back into my mind and heart.