A large part of my work with WE C Hope involves listening to parents, survivors, and medical professionals; walking alongside them through the maze of challenges that retinoblastoma creates.
Simply holding space is one of the greatest gifts we can give one another – to be a compassionate witness without judging or needing to make things better. Serving as a pensive allows the individual to safely explore their experiences, thoughts and feelings, and connect with their wise inner knowledge.
Such a potent blessing. So why do we rarely hold space for ourselves? Why are we so slow to give ourselves the same gift of compassionate listening?
In listening to ourselves, we can connect with who we really are and who we want to be, identify our discontent and its origins, and what we need to heal. But listening is a skill (one I fail at every day), and listening to ourselves takes special practice.
When strong emotions like anger, fear, and worry engulf us, it can be very hard to breathe deep and explore what’s happening, what we really feel, and what’s fuelling our reaction. So we create stories about what we think is happening, based on events, surface thoughts and feelings – and too often they are untrue.
Our brains are hardwired to operate most effectively through stories. They help us make sense of our past and present, and shape our future. The stories we tell ourselves affect what we believe, and how we interact with the world. Even at night, we create and process in the storyland of dreams.
In listening to ourselves, we step outside the whirlpool of thoughts and feelings that form our stories, to allow stronger self-connection. We learn and grow in that place of awareness, with profound positive impacts on our mental and physical wellbeing.
Self-enquiry in times of trial requires great self-awareness, compassion and focus, and that doesn’t come easily to most of us, especially in this hyper-distracted world. I’m learning, trying, failing, trying again and growing a little more every day. Below, I’ll share some of the techniques that help me. I hope some of them help you become a kinder listener – for you!