how i listen

Photo by Vignesh Moorthy on Unsplash


Listening in, I hesitate… 

Do I really want to listen?

(When you listen to your insides, what you will hear is what’s there. It might not be what you want to hear. We don’t always like the truth.

What happens when you listen more closely to what your body is actually saying?

What if you listen to what the ground reports from below?)

Loud and clear, I feel a tightness in the left side of my chest. It doesn’t come with an explanation or a set of instructions for what to do about it.

But as I listen, something moves. Hmm, that’s interesting. What else is there?

There is a gentle oscillation, a slight sway from here to there, from there to here. As I listen to the swaying – through the noise of the tightness in the left side of my chest –  I notice that something responds to this movement.

(When I sway here, the tightness feel like this, but when I sway there . . . the tightness feels like that!)

Still no blueprint for what to do.

(What if it turns out there is nothing to be done?)

I keep listening.

It turns out that I’m breathing (something I hadn’t previously noticed). What’s more, I keep making these two different shapes as I fill and empty my lungs. But more changes beyond the shape of my chest.

When I breathe in, my weight moves to the right. When I breathe out, my weight moves to the left. When I breathe in, the top of my head moves towards the ceiling, when I breathe out, the top of my head sinks.

Then I notice my breath has also slowed and deepened. I can’t explain how it happened, but clearly something has changed since I began to listen.

I feel an impulse to move. My neck wants to stretch. I tilt my head to one side, then the other, in various directions.

Then I stop and I listen again.

There’s a new sensation that I don’t particularly like. It’s lurks right there, just in front of my left shoulder blade. It seems to be wedded to the overstretched feeling in the left side of my face, and the constriction where the left side of my jaw meets  my skull.

I decide to change the position of my sitting. It’s better.

Afterwards I notice what I think might be the reason why. Turns out that I (unintentionally?) created more length on my right side and shortened my left. (It makes me curious. The left side is where I’ve been locating all my troubles today.)

I get an idea, but I tell myself to wait. It’s the mind’s idea but I told myself I was listening to body.

(I’ll stay here another minute, I decide.)

When I listen again, I find that my asymmetry is more stable than before. My head still lifts. My weight still drifts right with each new breath. But it’s smaller, more subtle. I have to listen a little longer in order to be sure.

Alright, let’s continue! my mind interrupts, requesting that we run an experiment. I will trade the asymmetry my body chose for another one.  Let’s see what happens.

I change the position of my legs, lengthening my left side and shortening my right. I listen again.

It’s less comfortable. (Aha!)

There is no creativity when I try to take advantage of the support the ground offers. I fidget and fuss. But at least I realize: I’m not listening anymore. I decide to be quiet again.

Something is revealed.

I continue to shift rightwards with each inhale. Yet in this new shape, it no longer lifts me. My head tries to lift but encounters resistance. The vertebrae in my neck seem to compress not lengthen. My head actually sinks.

My breath seems oblivious to my changed base of support. It makes no accommodation for the new reality. But the old formula doesn’t work here. Before I fell upwards. Now I simply fall.

But my mind is awake now – not trying to give directions, but bubbling over with suggestions.

Try shifting to the left as you breathe!

It’s only a tiny whisper of my will, and only asks for a whisper of intention, so my body doesn’t mind.

Lo and behold, I breathe in, shift left, and my spine lengthens upwards!

It doesn’t feel like nirvana, but I like it better here than where I was before. And now with each new upward breath the ground becomes more malleable. I’m no longer sinking. I find new places to grip.

Good enough! I return to the position where I first began.

That tight spot on the left, those sensations in front of the shoulder, and in the jaw . . . ?

Yes, they are still there, but they are softer. They don’t demand so much attention and don’t sound as whiny. They are willing to move with me. I start moving with curiosity now, in pursuit of pleasure.

I should go outside.

Yes. I should. I put on my shoes.

Note to self: Do this more often. Make this a habit.

 Quiet the mind and listen. Let the body lead.



This really happened to me today, but it could be the narrative of someone practicing Awareness Through Movement.

Join my class, Movement Practice for Creative Minds (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5pm EST, Sundays at 2pm EST) in order to find out for yourself where your body will lead you…

Click here to try your first class