Ways to listen: writing

I’ve said here before that listening is the core of my practice. I’ve also talked about a few of the hard things that can get in the way of our ability to listen. (There are plenty of others: not getting enough sleep or having enough time, challenging pieces of our past experience, and our old friend fear, to name just a few.) So how, exactly, can we reach that deep knowledge and wisdom we’re carrying around? Over several posts in the coming weeks, I’m going to share some of my toolkit on this. I hope you’ll all tell me about yours, too, in the comments.

I first encountered the idea of using writing as a way to listen in Julia Cameron’s beautiful book, The Artist’s Way. In it, she recommends a practice she calls “morning pages”: writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness, ideally longhand, first thing in the morning. The idea is that you will write for long enough to wear out your chatterer (especially if you do this before having your morning tea or coffee!) and get a glimpse of what lies beneath.

Another technique I love is to think of a question and then write down ten answers as quickly as I can. (Some questions I’ve used recently: “I’m afraid ______ would happen if I were happier,” “what small choices can I make during an average day that would nuture and comfort me?”)

In both cases, it’s useful to try to ignore or bypass our desires to censor ourselves. No one else ever needs to see these. (In fact, you don’t ever have to look at them again if you don’t want to!) Nothing needs to make sense, or be the right answer, and we can discard anything we come up with that doesn’t seem to work for us.

Do you use this technique? Or are you trying it now? Let me know how it’s going in comments.

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