receiving the gift of listening hands

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

unpolished thoughts 2/27/2019

Yesterday, I had the opportunity both to give and to receive.

Many people come to lie on my table. When I touch them, we are connected, and I listen. My listening is a daily practice. When I listen well, it becomes an aid to their listening.

Yesterday, I lay on the table while another pair of hands listened to me. Her hands practice listening in a different way than mine do, but that isn’t so important.

With words, she invited me to listen even before I felt her touch. Then her hands invited me into wordlessness, and we listened together.

There is no end to what we can find inside us.

There are the large forms that we can sense as shapes, that mirror the shapes visible from the outside.

There are various thicknesses, densities and spaces. There are harder and softer places. There are many textures. There are tensions, tendencies, and pressures.

Beyond this, there are the ways that all of these elements are in constant motion.

There are intentions and impulses, pulses and processes, thoughts and decisions.

But it’s rare to step inside this world without feeling caught up in the flow. We have such a strong habit of wanting to identify problems and fix them. This may not always be a bad thing, but it does get in the way of listening.

She touched my feet to begin, but first she told me so I wouldn’t be surprised. Then, there she was, a kind, gentle pressure and warmth.

She never ceased to accompany me, but as I listened, her hands slowly seemed to disappear.

I know from my own practice how connecting our bodies also connects our circuits, so from time to time I listened beyond my feet and into the space where I imagined her arms to be. I listened also for her shoulders, her head, her spine, her legs, and the ground.

She reappeared in the moment of removing her hands, then moved to rest her fingers on my shoulders, beginning again the same process of disappearance and presence, inviting and amplifying my listening.

Never in a hurry, she stayed with me, speaking softly only to tell me where next to expect her hands to appear. She touched here and there, always staying, always kind, gentle and warm, always listening.

I began with my habit of searching impatiently for the whole, my attention racing from one place to another, trying to sew it all together in an instant. But something made me stop in my left hand.

I noticed a sensation of internal debate about the position of the fingers. Somewhere inside my palm existed the opinion that they ought to spread further apart. I decided to stay there and find out why.

There was no answer, of course, but my attention had stopped racing. The whole I had been chasing after began to approach me instead. This presence told me its preference, that I should wait for it patiently this way.

Just as she placed her hands – quietly, generously patiently – in this way, I too was called to remove the urgency of intention from my attention.

It wasn’t a shift that occurred automatically, except that I allowed it to become my practice.

I stayed there in the left hand, listening and waiting, until my attention was called to move again. In this way, I travelled through the internal landscape, but now asked myself to spend more time with each new landmark.

I counseled myself to be more patient, to wait, and listen.

From each place inside me, I listened outward to the borders of the two of us, and sometimes beyond.

Every so often, I encountered thought streams and swam into their currents. These waters were different and contained insights that tempted me, but each I time I would eventually notice how they carried me outside of my body and away from presence.

They carried me to places other than here, times other than now.

So this too became a practice – not to resist, but, when I noticed, to allow the landscape inside to call me back home.

Just like the inclination to spread the fingers of my left hand, I began to find, one after another, many internal desires of different colors, impulses with different temperatures, each one describing an action to be carried out.

Sometimes I acquiesced, consenting requests to clear my throat, rub my eyes, or reposition my head.

But many more times I declined to fidget and just observed. In those moments, I discovered something new.

I imagined an endless sea of cells inside and imagined I felt their movement. Or perhaps what moved were elements of being other than those described by science.

One thing was certain.

There were places inside that moved of their own free will.

I only watched, like a child observing colorful fish through glass at an aquarium. I discovered many places that were part of me, but were entirely of their own mind.

These components of myself seemed to have their own intelligence, as invisible to me as the thoughts in someone else’s head. I watched them move without any ability to anticipate their movements.

They moved in many ways. Sometimes there were tiny eruptions, like bubbles bursting. Sometimes I felt shifts like avalanching sands.

Then there were movements that made no sense at all, large enough that my companion in listening would have easily seen and felt them. Once both legs jumped without warning, being in total tranquility in the moment just before and just after.

I was reminded that we are so much more than what we think we are.

Our thoughts can be meaningful, beautiful, or useful, but thoughts are also like clouds that obscure the stars.

Behind them lives a universe that we rarely touch in waking consciousness, yet it is always there. It is always a part of us.

These were things I heard when I listened with the help of her hands. Now that I know these places exist, I will listen differently.

I will keep this memory close to my heart, as a reminder to my hands each time I touch. I will be more patient, staying longer in each place, to feel how each point radiates outwards towards infinity.

I have already observed one way that my world has changed since lying on that table. Many times, I have found my attention wandering to the periphery of my vision without actually shifting the angle of my eyes.

The edges are in sharper focus. The world is wider.

Also, I feel the sounds in the background as more present without any need to forfeit the foreground. Separate sounds feel less separate now, more in tune with each other.

Of course none of these words are equivalent to what I actually felt and what I actually heard, nor what I hear and feel now. Still, they are one way to share an experience which I do not believe is only mine.

With these words, I also wish for you a journey inside.

Perhaps, if you are curious, you will close your eyes now for however long feels right – and listen for those parts of yourself that you haven’t previously met.


Those kind, gentle, warm, and listening hands belong to Margarita Castro, a massage and craniosacral therapist living in Silver Spring, MD, with an exquisite gift for deep listening.

Her offering is completely compatible with what I offer, the practice of the Feldenkrais Method.

Of course, each one of us has a unique experience when we engage in deep listening, so I would not suggest to you that working with Margarita would result in an experience for you that is similar to mine.

I would, however, highly recommend you to experience her many gifts in your own unique way.

To contact Margarita, please write to


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