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Ripple Reflections (Blog)

Laryngitis and Learning to Listen Mindfully

I can remember learning about psychometric testing back in third year psychology.  I found it fascinating how individual traits and attributes could be mapped out and elicited through certain questions and objective analysis.  I can also remember feeling quite chuffed (in an embarrassingly egotistical way) when my 'extroversion / introversion' questionnaire revealed me to be the most extreme extrovert out of my entire tute group - yikes!

Thankfully my tendency for extroversion has slowly sedated over the past decade and I now find myself appreciating life as a more even keeled ambivert, relishing the rejuvenation of alone time.  Or, so I thought… until my recent bout of laryngitis schooled me BIG-time on the 101 of HAVING to be silent, teaching me some amazing lessons on the value of listening and mindfulness in the process...

During my laryngitis I began to realise the difference between ‘choosing’ to be quiet for an hour or two (i.e. during a solo beach stroll or rainy day Netflix binge) and HAVING to be quiet, because I literally could not speak.  

Suddenly all my default, verbal communication strategies became void…
I couldn’t call out to welcome my partner home and let him know I was upstairs
I couldn’t teach yoga
I couldn’t call my clients on the phone or leave long winded Whatsapp voice notes for my family...

My contribution at meal time became all about the nod and smile.  All I could do was listen.

The more I listened, the more I began to notice how grounded and present I felt.  Unlike listening when you are able to speak, listening when you have lost your voice takes on an entirely different quality.  I was no longer just pseudo-listening whilst simultaneously conjuring a reply or followup question, instead I was purely listening, absorbing what my companions were sharing.  There was no expectation for me to reply, so I had the opportunity to be 100% present to what they were saying.  It was so connected and calming.  I loved it!

Now that my voice has returned and I am back to my previous vocal rhythms, I am reluctant to surrender the sense of peace and equanimity of my enforced silence, so I’ve created some simple ‘listening lessons’ that I now try to live by.  I’d love you to give them a try and let us know what you think…

Mindful Listening with Others:
- Stay open minded without mentally judging or summarising their point before they have finished speaking

- Try not to interrupt or interject my companion mid flow

- Be attentive and indicate my receptivity and interest for what they are sharing by nodding, smiling and maintaining eye-contact as they speak

- Taking time to receive and process what people are saying verbally, but also what they are trying to convey or request from an emotional and energetic perspective

- Stay engaged by ignoring low priority distractions like phones and television

Mindful Listening & Stress Reduction
I must confess that on busy days when my stress thermometer begins to rise I can find it challenging to execute listening with the level of integrity that I would like.  Sometimes my patience evaporates and my adrenaline fuelled neurons bounce all over the place looking for ways to get things done and sorted ASAP (instead of with TLC).

In these moments I know that I can use mindful ‘listening’ and my sense of hearing as an anchor back to the present.  Here are some of the techniques I use (in conjunction with deep, diaphragmatic breathing) to re-centre myself when things get cray-cray, so that I can regain the ability to show myself and my companions the respect and presence they deserve.  

I close my eyes and absorb myself in focusing on:
- the sound of my breath as it enters and exits my body

- the sounds within the same room as me.  Identifying and separating soft sounds from harsh or loud sounds, regular from irregular, close from far…

- the sounds beyond the room or building that I am in, applying the same distinction as the point above; and

- the spaces between sounds

As I attune to the sounds around me I endeavour to practice detachment and non judgement, trying to refrain from identifying certain sounds as pleasant or painful.  When my mind wanders or begins to chatter, I practice trying to call it back, anchoring once again to a focus on simply listening.  In doing so, I give those frazzled neurons a bit of a cuddle, enforcing a time-out from their future focus and fast paced flow, inviting them back to a place of receptivity where hopefully I am more able to listen and connect to myself and, as an extension, be able to offer this same level of respect and receptivity to those I communicate with.

Do you have any favourite habits or techniques for keeping yourself present and connected to yourself and those around you?  
We’d love to hear anything you have to share in the comments below.

If you find slowing down and ‘tuning-in’ a bit of a struggle, you might love this 15 minute guided relaxation sequence that Mum and I captured for our Ripple community yesterday.  It is a very gentle yoga flow exploring variations of Viparita Karani (AKA legs up the wall pose), lovingly regarded in the yoga community as the King of Restorative poses, ideal as a pre-bed unwind, paving the way to a restful and rejuvenating sleep.  You can watch and follow along with the full sequence HERE.

Until the next time we connect, may ripples of loving listening flow to you and through you.

Ryoka and Debbie Elton

>> RIPPLE RETREAT: Our next one-day retreat in East Fremantle is Sunday August 6th.  Book yourself in for an urban escape of delicious, nourishing me-time and wellness wisdom HERE.

>> WEBINAR: So many of our clients complain of insomnia and an inability to sleep soundly for the whole night.  Join us for an illuminating LIVE, free webinar on July 27th as we share yogic and naturopathic wisdom on how you can 'Sleep Well & Wake Rested'.  Register to join HERE.

4 Comments to Laryngitis and Learning to Listen Mindfully:

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Pam Mackenzie on Thursday, 13 July 2017 12:21 PM
Oh my I loved this. I can be terrible at really listening at times. This is a lovely awareness and reminder to "shutup" and stop in chatter in my brain. Maybe a dose of laryngitis is what I need.( heheh) From today I am going to listen mindfully. Thankyou ladies for this e-mail. Peace and love Pam x
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Ryoka on Thursday, 13 July 2017 3:09 PM
Hi Pam! Thanks for reading and for sharing such a lovely comment. It's so easy to slip into unconscious and distracted listening isn't it?! Big high fives coming at you for your new commitment to keeping it mindful - you go girl! :p Blessings and hugs xx

Kim Hardeman on Thursday, 13 July 2017 4:06 PM
Good tips Ryoka. Letting someone finish before responding is good as it is frustrating when laying a base of info for something you wish to discuss and having the listener respond to that before you get to the actual topic you wished to share or provide an insight into. Easy to drag conversations in different directions when it is something the group of you are passionate about and later you realize you never shared the info, dates, upcoming event knowledge ecetera with those you wanted to, while the opportunity of you being all together is there. A good reason to have Meeting Agenda reference notes to check before finishing as often people raise associated points that need following up as well, so away it goes! It is fine balance between putting in your own "two bobs worth" and "hearing others out" for sure! :)
Reply to comment
Ryoka on Tuesday, 18 July 2017 9:29 AM
I love this point Kim!! It is oh so easy for a discussion to get hi-jacked and subsequently off-track isn't it? All the more perilous if, as you say, there was a specific purpose or piece of content that was meant to be conveyed. And I agree... a good agenda can work wonders in guiding that balance between everyone offering their 'two bobs worth' and being receptive to what others have to say. Thanks for commenting! :)

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