The other day at mass, I noticed an elderly gentleman sitting next to our family. When he stood up, I saw him leaning over in an awkward way with a hunched back and his head tilted to one side. I didn’t know what he was doing or if there was something wrong. I kept hearing this strange screeching sound every so often, but I didn’t know where it was coming from.
He was sitting alone. I noticed his age-spots, thin hair, wrinkles, his arthritic hands clutching the pew in front of us. I saw his eyes – they were gentle and soft.
As he sat down for the homily and turned his head toward us, I saw the hearing aid tucked around his ear. I heard the screeching sound.
And then I realized: he had been leaning forward in order to listen through the noise!
Listening through the noise.
He was intentionally listening through the noise around him and the screeching sound from his hearing aid!
My heart broke open.
I thought about how it would be to try and listen through the screeching and distorted sound. I thought what it would be like to listen so intently through the noise like this gentleman for the voice of the Divine. What might I hear? What might be revealed?
I watched him for the rest of mass – awed and moved by the intention with which he listened.
I’m a listener for my work – not only to the words my clients share, but for the stories beneath the words. I listen for the stories of the client’s body and soul that want to be heard and revealed.
I try and listen to my own life – the call of the Divine to guide me. But I get caught up in the noise, too. I get caught up in my thoughts of self-worth, comparing myself to others, worries, and the number of things on my “to do” list. I get caught up in the noise to do more – write more books, give more talks, offer more courses, and open more spots for coaching and therapy. I get caught up in the noise of comparing myself to what others are doing.
This gentleman’s persistence to listen through the noise has inspired me to listen deeper. He tilted his head in such a way that he could hear better. He inspires me to posture my body in a way that will enable me to listen more clearly and to lean into the sources of Divine wisdom that I need to listen to.
That’s not easy to do.
There are some noises we can turn off or turn away from. There are other noises we can’t turn off. They are just part of our reality. We have noise in our lives – screeches that annoy us, pings and dings that distract us.
It can be hard to listen to the longings on our hearts, the quieter needs of others, the voice of the Divine underneath it all. We can get caught up in the noise – of our fears talking, our frustrations dominating, our particular likes and dislikes shouting, and the opinions of others.
It can be hard to hear the quieter whisper of your soul calling for rest and trust that you’ll emerge even more productive and inspired.
It can be hard to hear your body calling for nourishing food that raises your vibration and movement that invigorates you.
It can be hard to hear your spouse’s unspoken desire beneath the habits of misunderstanding one another and taking things personally.
It can be hard to hear the underlying need under your child’s behavior or attitude.
It can be hard to hear your heart nudging you to take a risk and apply for that new position, start writing your book, take the painting class, or go on the trip.
It can be hard to hear Divine guidance illuminating the next few steps to take on a new path.
Like this elderly gentleman, we can choose to open the ears of our hearts and listen. We can posture ourselves in such a way that we might listen more intently and hear more clearly how Life is speaking to us, guiding us, calling us to risk the prompt to love with more vulnerability and trust as we lean into the holy unknown.
How do we do that?!
Seven Mindful Ways to Listen through the Noise
When you wake up in the morning, take just one minute to put your hand on your heart, feel the beating of your heart, feel the breath breathing you, and ask yourself, “How do I want to feel today?” And then visualize yourself in a few moments of the day making choices that enable you to honor that feeling. This practice sets the compass of your heart. Want an example? I made a video of this practice for you.
Keep a notebook with you. When you hear those quiet whispers from your soul, write them down.
Be around nature. Take a walk during a lunch break – even for 10 minutes. When I was the Wellness Counselor at Georgetown University for faculty and staff, we created a Wellness Break initiative that gave employees an extra half an hour to do whatever wellness activity they wanted during the day. You can also simply bring nature into your home – buy yourself flowers or a simple succulent. I just bought myself flowers – midlife is all about caring for self in deep, loving ways without the guilt.
Listen to your dear ones with presence. If there is any hunger that longs to be satiated in today’s digital world, it is this: presence. Being seen. Being truly listened to. Make it a habit to literally pause and turn your body and eyes toward your partner, child, coworker, parent, client, or friend and give them your presence. Such presence is healing. On a trip to Key West with my children and dad, one morning I soaked up the stories my dad shared that I had never heard. Parenting? Check out this poem, The Space to be Seen, and this post – talk less and listen more.
Build in boundaries to work. I love my work and could keep working for hours on end. But I need boundaries to work that support balance. Commit to turning off the phone an hour before you go to bed. Don’t look at your phone first thing in the morning. Commit to scheduling your workouts during the week – just as you would a client or meeting. Here’s my post with four essential ways wise women set healthier boundaries.
Ask yourself the more soulful questions. Ask yourself, “What really delights my heart?” and “What’s truly sacred to me?” and “What would be joy-inspiring right now?” For more soulful questions, look here.
End your day with calm. I talk to clients and people in workshops about “bookending your day” – starting and ending your day with a sacred pause. The end of the day is a perfect time for gently reviewing your day and asking, “How did I love today? What goodness came my way?” If you have a hard time getting to sleep, you might try my relaxation meditation.
It takes mindful effort these days to listen through the noise of daily life. We know that our bodies, minds, and souls need quiet and time away from the noise. But the world’s pings and dings keep us always in “on” mode. We’re all addicted to it. And this is exhausting to our nervous systems. We end up just trudging through life. In this digital age, it’s more important now more than ever to intentionally pause and listen to the quieter whispers of the holy guiding us in life-nourishing and truly soul-invigorating ways. It’s more important now more than ever to pause and give our presence to what — and who — matters.
I often describe my work as an Integrative Coach and Somatic Experiencing Psychotherapist as “holding space” for my clients “to listen within.” It’s my calling to hold space for clients to listen beneath the noise of daily life in a skillful way that doesn’t require more effort but rather mindful attention with a desire to deepen a client’s relationship with his body, mind, and soul. In my own inner work being in the hands of fellow SE practitioners, I have discovered inside of me a deep trust for how the nervous system and our whole organism knows how to heal – given the right conditions. And it starts with gentle ways of “listening within.”
What might you hear if you pause to really listen – for even a few moments?
Maybe you’ll hear your child’s need underneath their behavior.
Maybe you’ll hear that it’s time for a new adventure.
Maybe you’ll hear nature calling you outside to feel calm, centered, and grounded.
Maybe you’ll hear your partner’s unspoken desire for you to be truly happy.
Maybe you’ll hear that it’s time to let go of that old regret and forgive yourself.
Maybe you’ll hear your heart nudging you to risk Love.
Maybe you’ll hear the Divine guiding you to dream big and trust.
There is so much information and “noise” out there on parenting. Let me help you cut through the noise and focus on practices and approaches to parenting that truly support your child’s sense of resilience and deepens your connection. In Regarding Our Children, I bring my expertise in traumatic stress prevention, present parenting, and building healthy relationships to support you on your parenting journey. I put my heart and clinical experience into this course while narrowing down what lessons and practices really matter, and I share them with you in nine audio podcast style lessons. I hope you’ll join me for the next session.