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The Importance of Listening

Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals.' L.J. Isham

The world is a very loud place, where our senses are bombarded with information that we are forced to stand and wade through; trying to interpret and understand so we can successfully survive and interact with the world. Even in rare moments of silence the brain still has its incessant chatter in the background, of all of our not so helpful and often pointless thoughts. The speed and pace of life means that we don’t have time to listen to ourselves, to really explore what people are trying to express, instead we simply...hear.

'The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.' Anon

What is the difference? If you have music on, we could describe hearing as noticing there’s a vocalist and backing singers, the instruments, the volume and noticing where the sound is coming from. Hearing is very factual. Whereas listening is connecting to the lyrics, the melody, the dynamics, rhythm, tempo, the layers, feeling the emotion, interpretation and the atmosphere.

We need to listen to ourselves.

'There’s nothing more important to true growth of the mind than realising you are not the voice of the mind- you are the one who hears it.' Michael Singer.

The mind is incredible, but it can also be very annoying. It loves to ruminate on our experiences and has a particular fondness for homing in on our least favourite memories. When this happens, we re-live the memory; and remembering an event long after it has happened, can have the same debilitating effect as when it originally happened.

If we hear it, we have a choice to listen, and then determine how to react. This is where the work needs to happen. We need to step back from all of the noise and be able to stand in the present. This allows us to witness it from a point of safety and a place of inner knowing; trusting, confidence, resilience, reflection and hope.

In my years as a client, in training and as a practitioner of Craniosacral Therapy, I have spent significant time and energy learning to stand in the present and to trust my intuition. To get there I have to sort through a whole load of embodied stress, trauma and behavioural patterns. I’ve made massive steps but the work ALWAYS continues. It is an active recovery. There’s always going to be slip-ups, tendencies and triggers. I’m not saying that my life has been any worse than anyone else’s, but we must recognise how the things that have affected us can continue to influence us...and then work on them.

Sympathy is very different. Sympathy is simply acknowledging that someone is distressed. We often use lines like ‘It could be worse.’ ‘At least ___ didn’t happen.’ or, ‘You’re strong you’ll get over it'., 'If I was you...' or 'You should.....' 'I can't imagine how that feels.'

We often turn to sympathy because we do not want to see the people we love hurting. It can hard for us to hear it, so we deflect the situation with empowering and motivational words. In essence, we cut people's stories short. We don’t let them fully express themselves. This is all done with kindness, but it doesn’t let that energy discharge from the person's system so they may feel as though they are not being heard or their feelings are not valid. It’s a very tricky situation and one that I’m very conscious of especially in clinical work.

Empathy is listening and sympathy is hearing.

'Empathy drives connection. Sympathy drives disconnection.' Brene Brown

To listen, we need time and space to approach it with an open heart, creativity, interpretative skills and empathy. Listening comes from a point of stillness and grounding, from knowing ourselves and holding the space so that other people can work through and find themselves. Once our inner lives re-organise and re-align, so will the outside world. The Craniosacral Therapy Association describes Craniosacral Therapy as...

"The simplicity of a gentle listening touch. Craniosacral Therapy offers a distinctive stillness that allows your mind and body to rest deeply and begin to restore natural balance."

If you're interested in learning more about Craniosacral Therapy and Kiran, click here.

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