In my work, I have found that the art of listening is powerful. In bodywork, we use a skill called palpation, which is really a form of deep listening using your hands. In psychotherapy, too, the simple act of witnessing, truly hearing someone’s story, without expectation or judgment, can be transformative. Just like any other skill, listening well is something that can be cultivated. It is the yin to the yang of any finely crafted expression.
The following is a simple but powerful exercise to this end. Other than honing your listening skills and increasing your sense of self-awareness, you will find that it also is deeply relaxing and grounding; many people find it helpful in the management of anxiety.
Find a place and time where you can relax and not be disturbed for a few minutes. You will not need more than 3-5 minutes to do this, though you may want to practice for longer as you become more comfortable with it.
Sit comfortably, with both feet on the floor, and a straight spine. Rest your hands on your thighs, palms down.
You may close your eyes, or leave them open but softening your gaze, signaling to yourself that you are now focusing inward.
Become aware of your entire presence in this present moment, in your physical body, in the here and now. You may say something to yourself to the effect of: “I now am fully aware of my presence, right here and right now.”
Shift your awareness to your feet. Feel them on the ground. Can you sense the pull of gravity? Whether you can or can’t, just notice what you are experiencing. Without judgment, without expectation. Just observe and notice. Listen.
Now shift your awareness to your hands, as they’re resting on your thighs. Notice what that feels like. Are they heavy, are they light? Again, can you feel the downward pull of gravity?
Use your hands to listen, whatever that means to you. Your palms are your ears and you are listening to what is underneath them. Maybe start with the texture of the fabric of what you’re wearing. Is it coarse, is it fine? And as you’re listening with your palms, observe what happens. Are there any changes? What is going on? Remember, no judgment, no expectation; not trying to make anything happen. Just observing, noticing. Listening.
Next, focus on your breath, wherever it meets you. Notice it, whether it’s in your belly, your diaphragm, your nostrils. Note its rhythm, the in and out, the slight expansion of the in breath, then the release. Remember, you’re not making anything happen, you’re just noting. And as you’re noting and observing, see if anything changes.
Close this exercise by thanking yourself and acknowledging the importance of taking time to mind yourself.