I used to get cramps in my legs starting when I was about 9 or 10 years old. I remember once waking up in the middle of the night screaming because the calf muscles in both of my legs were stuck in cramps and I couldn't do anything to stop the pain.
I got some relief after my Mom, woken up by my screaming, quickly rushed upstairs, soaked some towels in hot water and wrapped them around my legs.
Having felt what "cramps" were, I knew what was happening whenever I got them in my legs
or feet, or any other part of my body.
When I was 11 years old, I began feeling some discomfort in my abdomen. It didnt feel like what I knew to be a cramp. To me, it felt like I had an uncomfortable urge or pressure to go to the bathroom,
but which couldn't be relieved. I remember one time during a family get-together at our house, leaving to go upstairs, and sort of crouching into a ball and rocking back and forth to distract my mind from the nagging discomfort.
this happened on and off over several months, my Mom took me to the family doctor who listened to the description of my discomfort and prescribed Metamucil. I took some every day. The discomfort continued to appear and disappear.
more than a year and a half into this discomfort, one day I noticed a large hard lump one one side of my abdomen. When I went back to the family doctor, he did an exam, and then had me rushed immediately to the hospital. For almost two years, the nagging discomfort
had been the cramps from my menstrual cycle.
I had unknowingly been born with a defect that blocked the flow of blood that my body was attempting to shed each month, so that all it could do was accumulate until it was big and hard enough
to be detectable.
Because my discomfort never felt like cramps to me, I never used the word "cramps", and my doctor was not intuitive enough in the moment of that initial examination to consider anything other than the specific words I
was using to describe my pain, along with his own interpretation of them.
It's not like the clues weren't there... a young girl soon to be a teenager, speaking about abdominal discomfort that comes every once in a while... he just didn't
see the clues for what they were.
Unfortunately, he diagnosed me by listening to his immediate intellect and not by getting more curious... not getting a little quieter in his mind, and not listening beyond the limited thoughts and words
we were sharing, leading to other questions that may have revealed more. That event, and the doctor's response, rippled out into various health issues throughout my life.
That miscommunication or misunderstanding... one person attempting
to explain a feeling and another person trying to understand it by listening through the filter of what they think they already know, is the source of all manner of chaos in our human existence, including all the challenges we are experiencing today.
We've all forgotten how to listen.
We hear or see anything, and our human system instantaneously compares it to everything we already know and believe. Circumstances happen and our mind immediately goes through its hidden personal vaults
of experience, knowledge, memory, and belief to make sense out of it, so that we can check off the "I got it" box, give it a diagnosis, and move on.
And without each of us realizing the difference in feeling (often subtle, sometimes not
so subtle), between the constrictive tension of our intellect and the spacious clarity of deeper wisdom, we live in a world of limitation and insecurity instead of a world of possibility and wonder... we respond to the habitual and urgent and loud voices of
a self-protective ego, instead of the relaxed and calm whispers of an open and intuitive heart.
After being just like my doctor throughout my own life... spending a great deal of time unknowingly listening to my intellect, and in my profession
as a corporate trainer, even spending many years teaching various courses on how to listen, it came as a surprise to discover that listening wasn't at all something that needed to be learned, but was something perhaps more to be unlearned... something that
was always available to me, and to everyone, in any moment of pure presence, just for the somehow letting go of the incessant and habitual focus on the thoughts in our mind, and being open to something new that we don't yet know.
words, I spent the first few years of my life listening easily to the flow of wisdom, as we all naturally do. I then spent the next 35 years listening frequently to my accumulated and ever growing intellect. The next 10 years or so after that, I was taught
and then taught others, techniques on "how to listen". And then for the last 7 years or so, I've been unlearning it all to get back to where I began... realizing the ability to lean toward a place of not knowing... a place where curiosity and wonder appears,
where the feeling of tension falls away, where connection happens, and where "life is" extraordinarily ordinary and wise.
Over my lifetime, I've proactively and enthusiastically collected a deep well of what I affectionately refer to as
"my personal crazy" (everything I think I know, much of which I haven't even consciously realized yet). And so now I'm unlearning, guided by a growing awareness of the difference between weight and constriction versus lightness and clarity, and learning to
take my cues from there.
I wonder if during this time of extraordinary and collective global change, and the disruption of many of our usual and habitual behaviours, if and how others are unlearning to listen too?