Have you ever spent time gazing deeply into someone’s eyes while they were talking with you? Really paying attention to every word, doing your best to understand?
Rather than interrupt with question or let your mind wander off into its stories (the way minds do), you truly tried to feel the emotion behind their words?
If you have, then you might know what I mean about the power of deep listening to heal many ills of the world. As humans, we deeply yearn to be seen and understood by other sentient beings. It is deeply wired into our survival DNA as a species.
When we feel seen and deeply appreciated by another human being, we start to mirror back that feeling toward the world. We connect more deeply with others around us, and we start to heal the wounds we all carry, personally and collectively.
I have to admit that listening deeply is something I have not practiced as consistently as I would like with loved ones. Listening without judgment and with true curiosity is an art and a practice. It requires awareness of your own mind, and the ability to stay present and return even when you feel distracted.
All I know is that when I listen deeply to people, whether my family or my coworkers or colleagues, I am transformed as well. When I have made that connection with intention to deeply understand not just the words but the emotion behind them, all of my relationships improve.
In an era where it is too easy to be distracted, try deeply listening to someone today. Ignore the pings and dings from your phone. Set aside the opinions and judgments. Just watch how this practice brings greater joy and ease to your life and your work.
A new technology aspires to harness the powerful human sense of smell to enhance our daily lives. Someday this approach might even be used to benefit our health. How is this possible? Step one: Just inhale. We’re living in a playlist world, with many of us curating soundtracks to get us through life’s daily ups…
The videos in this blog are too fascinating not to share. I’m especially interested in the implications for food addiction and diabetes. As someone with a rather acute sense of smell and a love for essential oils, I am super curious about this research. You may find it intriguing as well.
Speech is silver; silence is golden, goes the saying. Though the second half is the more remembered according to the Literary Devices site.
Tonight my husband was thirsting for some silence, and I was sitting in the dining room on my laptop, oblivious to this fact. He had his phone in hand, and was sort of half-listening to me (or at least that was what I perceived).
When he does this while I am trying to actually connect with him, it drives me crazy. But because I was kind of wound up from a busy day, and thoughts of needing to “fit everything in” before I return to a full time work schedule, I was multi-tasking. I was talking off and on, not very aware of how much I was blathering on, while trying to get 3 other things done on my computer.
Even for those of us with variable attention, who juggle many tasks fairly well (more than the average person), there is a limit. Going beyond the limit does not typically end well.
In our case, it touched off a sensitive subject for me. He pointed out that I was talking a lot (it had been a hard day for him) and it was too much for him. I didn’t respond well at first. It triggered a “shame storm” of my own memories of being silenced in other settings: in my family, in various workplaces and at other times.
So I did my best to respond mindfully and I asked him to tell me more. I had gotten a little teary and “raw” at the story that I was making up: that he doesn’t care what I have to say. In reality, he only wanted what I’ve been giving myself every morning: quiet time upon arriving home, to wind down and transition into the evening. (In my case, it is quiet time in the morning to transition to into my activities).
I realized I had been glued to my computer for the afternoon, in full-on “work mode” even after he arrived home. I had not done my usual “shut down ritual” for the day, creating space between work brain and home brain, and taking my work stuff out of the dining room (adjacent to the living room).
His request was reasonable. I asked him: “when I do talk mindlessly or forget that you need some quiet wind-down time, what are ways you can remind me of this in a non-shaming way?”
We decided on something humorous. A former co-worker of mine used to stand at my cube on Friday afternoons and chat with me while I was trying to wrap up the week and leave. This used to drive me crazy, because I did not know how to politely ask her to leave me alone so I could finish and go home.
Hubby is going to call me by that name when I’m not sensing that he needs quiet. I shall refrain from naming the person. I am pretty sure they did not do this on purpose, and may just have been lonely.
The irony of all of this is that one of the values my coach, Elizabeth Dickinson, had helped me uncover was that of “personal space.” What that means to me: plenty of time for solitude, quiet and “deep work” time, along with time and space to listen to my podcasts and shift my energy as necessary to a just right stimulus. It is harder to achieve that in cubicle-land when we do not have an office with a door.
Soon I will return to a setting where I will have a cube again, and have been trying to consider how to access personal space. I am hoping that in an academic environment at a University, some closed-door time and deep work will be honored, even for staff who are not professors. Maybe in a conference room? But I am not sure. If any of my readers have advice and/or thoughts on this topic, I welcome your feedback. Clearly there will be a part 2 to this reflection, as I have just scratched the surface on this topic.
Is silence or solitude golden to you? How do you carve out those spaces in your workplace if you do not have an office?
On Monday I had the honor of sharing some favorite meditation practices during a workshop on the Neuroscience of Resilience with an engaged group of job-seekers. When we are in times of transition or challenge, being able to engage our parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body is key. We can bring a sense of equanimity and balance to decisions and actions we take.
The group was excellent. They participated readily, brought their perspectives into the room and asked great questions. I really enjoyed pulling together the presentation and materials for this session. I had in mind the struggle of being between jobs and careers, and I know this can be a place of uncertainty and stress. It can also be a place of discovery and growth, should we choose to embrace that side of the process.
It takes self-compassion to remain resilient in the face of challenges or struggles. Those of us who have harsh inner critics can feel as though we need to “reprogram” ourselves in a way. Self-criticism can be so habitual that it feels automatic. But when we access that higher self, that inner mentor, and allow ourselves some kindness, paradoxically we find it easier to take actions and move forward.
This group is able to tap the resources of Career Partners International, so they are fortunate to have support during their transition. I hope I was able to add to their toolkit of resources to help them along the journey. What a great privilege it is to be able to share on a topic I have studied for so many years for my own benefit, and on behalf of the teams I have led.
I have been learning a concept in yoga teacher training that is getting me to rethink how I approach the activities in my day. It is the notion of the “just right stimulus” when it comes to doing yoga poses, or deciding how to modify them for optimal benefit.
Since yoga aims mobilize, stabilize and strengthen our bodies, we must apply certain principles to achieve those goals. The idea is that when we receive that just right stimulus, we can increase the mobility of our joints, we can stabilize and align our spine and further, strength our body and optimize our health.
When we overdo a stretch or push our bodies too hard, injuries develop over time. In contrast, when we under-use our bodies, neglecting the mobility of our joints, or losing the strength in our muscles and bones by not moving enough, our body can atrophy. We then become less physically capable over time.
Our minds are like this too. When we are constantly “on” – doing, thinking, absorbing, seeking input and running around, we can become over-stimulated. As someone who is neuro-diverse with variable focus, this can be all too easy to do. In contrast, becoming too passive, such as vegging out in front of the t.v. for hours at a time, or allowing our minds become listless and dull, does not serve us. It then will required more energy to focus, think and be purposeful in our actions if we develop a habit of mental passivity.
Our bodies and souls need periods of activity and rest to stay in their optimal condition. These cycles vary from hour to hour, day to day and even month to month, seasonally and in the various phases of our lives. Indeed psychiatrist Dan Siegel coined the term “window of tolerance” to describe the optimal arousal of our nervous system.
In cultivating resilience in ourselves, it is important to develop some internal sensing of when we are not too hot, not too cold, but just right (remember Goldilocks and the three bears?) Stephen Porges, PhD called this “neuroception” in his exploration of Polyvagal Theory, which helps us understand how safe states are sensed, and how the social engagement system can help us self-regulate.
When we go about our daily life, we find that we move in and out of the optimal state and this is a normal part of living. What is important is that we find ways to get ourselves back to more balance so that we can bring our full presence and engagement into our relationships and our work.
There are many practices that can help us with this. I will be exploring some that I find particularly beneficial in the next couple of weeks as I prepare to deliver a workshop on the neuroscience of resilience for a local client. I hope they will be helpful to you as well!
A potential client gave me a topic idea that I am exploring to create a workshop. I realized I have 10+ books on my bookshelf about the neuroscience of resilience. Kind of crazy when you get to create presentations on topics that you’ve been studying for years just out of your own personal interest!
So in readying myself to organize the outline I wanted to share a few thoughts here as I work on that. I am hoping to partner with a yoga teacher I know in order to create some practices that people can implement on the spot as part of the workshop.
As a person who has struggled with anxiety and depression in my past (and have come through a recent decade of robust mental health) I believe my experience can be helpful to others. I have read so many great books on this topic and will list some favorites here (this doubles as my bibliography for the session).
The Chemistry of Calm by Henry Emmons, M.D. (2010) – especially Chapter 3 on the Roots of Resilience. This whole book is a gem for anyone who has ever suffered anxiety.
This latter book was referred to me by a kind Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselor for whom I am still grateful. He identified the hidden grief I was processing back in 2010. If it weren’t for him, I might have lost my job since I had been put on a performance improvement plan (giving only 90% at work instead of the 110% I customarily give).
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. (2010) – especially Guideposts #2 and #3 on Cultivating Self-Compassion and Cultivating a Resilient Spirit.
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. (2014) – this book again brought me to yoga in its explanations of the physical mechanisms that keep trauma “locked” in the body (both physical and mental).
Overworked and Overwhelmed: the mindfulness alternative by Scott Eblin (2014) – I heard the author speak at a leadership event for my company and I knew he had important messages for me. Scott tells a powerful journey of his diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and the steps he takes to manage it. He actually became a yoga teacher in order to teach some of the things he was learning to take good care of his body. Another inspiration for me.
Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body by Daniel Goleman, PhD, and Richard J Davidson, PhD (2017). I knew meditation was starting to have an effect on me when I made a commitment to practice in February of 2017. This was the evidence I was looking for, that thoroughly reviewed the science behind how these practices change not only our current state but also our gene expression.
My premise is that human beings are (by nature) resilient. AND there are things we can do throughout our lifetimes to increase our own resilience in the face of difficult times.
I have many more. These are the ones that were top-of-mind as I scanned the shelves to work on my course outline. I will have WAY more than material than I can cover in a 2-hour session, but I can always hand out a reading list of suggested resources for those interested.