Living during a pandemic such as the current COVID-19 virus is a ripe time for looking outward and feeling fear. However, a pandemic is also a ripe time for turning inward and discovering our strength, desire, and truth. Dr. Irvin Yalom, one of the developers of existential psychotherapy says, “Though the physicality of death destroys us, the idea of death may save us.” But with so much turbulence in our current circumstances and so much fear in our mind and bodies, how do we channel this pandemic for our personal growth and the growth of our community? I propose we need regular practices of regulating, observing, listening, and acting. Today’s third post is on listening.
When we begin to feel safe and mindful of the present moment we can listen with more curiosity to the thoughts and feelings that the pandemic has raised into our consciousness. The 13th century Sufi poet Rumi says:
“This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all!”
When we listen to our thoughts and feelings, we often find that parts of ourselves haven’t been fully brought into the present. So many of us are afraid to some degree right now. However, if our “freeze” fear response is still highly conditioned to the circumstances of our past, that freeze response is likely to feel debilitating right now. Coming from the past trauma or pain to the present situation becomes key.
There are many practices for listening with gentle curiosity. Simply sitting in silence and tuning into the body, allowing feelings, images, and words to arise, can be a beautiful way of listening and learning about your true self and heart. You may even ask a question to your heart and then sit with openness to listen for an answer the way you would listen to a friend–quiet and attentive.
Art provides a powerful way to let our heart/unconscious speak so we can hear and see ourselves.
- Journaling. There are so many great journal prompts on Pinterest. One simple prompt is a response to Mary Oliver’s famous line: “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
- Drawing and painting. You might draw or paint a thought, emotion, or body sensation. I like to use free stock photos on the internet and personal photos saved on my computer to make collages of what I’m processing.
- Music. You could play your instrument, sing, or listen to music that expresses a thought, feeling, or body sensation.
- Dance. Let your body move the way it feels without controlling it or doing set movements you already know.
Listening with curiosity to what is inside us can help our unlived desire and truth come to the surface. In my next post, I’ll describe how we can practice taking these new insights into life-changing action. Until then, considering experimenting with one of the above practices.
By: Sean Williams, Deep Eddy Psychotherapy Scheduling Team