Learning to Listen

By Melinda Glenister

Something from Edward Yu‘s book The Art of Slowing Down stays with me, about the difference between listening to the whispers your body tells you, or waiting til you can no longer ignore the screams.  How many of us have become expert at waiting for the screams, and then manage to ignore those too.  But eventually if we don’t listen long enough we hit the brick wall, our bodies have a way of making us stop in the end, one way or another.  Blocking out the signals is an art form for some, a science for others.  Drugs, alcohol, work, will power…  (For me in my tennis playing days it was always a combination of painkillers and sheer stubbornness.)  For some we learn so early not to listen, by not being listened to, that figuring out how to listen is a problem- or knowing where to begin.   Generally speaking, it’s good to begin at the beginning.

In Feldenkrais often the biggest obstacle to someone learning how to listen to the more subtle signals is the urge to skip over the beginning.  To run before they can walk literally.  The information is all there in the beginning- but you need to go slow enough that you can take it all in.  The faster you go and the more you blast through the more likely you will again be hearing the screams or hitting the brick wall.   In our desire or anxiety to know what’s ahead we rush to the end point without even realising.

Psychologist Harriet Lerner suggests to move at ‘glacial speed’ when making changes in the face of high anxiety, which I think includes all situations of physical, emotional or psychological stress.  When we begin at the beginning and move at glacial speed, we can have a chance to hear what our bodies are telling us before we hit the brick wall, and only then can we begin to make some new connections, and some lasting changes.