Life has taken on a new rhythm for the past six weeks. It’s perhaps less striking for me – someone who already worked from home and for whom employment has been steady – but it is still noticeably different.
The extra expanses of time and solitude have allowed something else to grow.
I’ve called it “listening to myself.”
It started with a desk declutter. As I recycled and filed papers, I came across notes I left for myself. Some were for tasks or information to be referenced, but many were a completely different kind of reminder. They were quotes that struck me. Wishes hastily written down. Questions that I didn’t have time to contemplate in the moment, but I sensed were deeply important.
After I had dealt with the to-do items, I was left with this small pile of notes from my past self to some future version of me … in this case just a few days or weeks in the future. I was struck by the fact that nearly all of them still resonated, and if anything they seemed even more important after languishing among the memos and receipts.
In capturing those ideas, however fleetingly, part of me had been calling out for attention. When I finally stopped to listen, I could begin to see the patterns and longings that were clearly being expressed, even if I hadn’t consciously been aware of them.
It continued with a small prompt from a teacher. He called it a “small discipline.” The challenge was to give yourself a few minutes after waking to remember who you are. No phone. No to-do list. No timetable. Just a quiet, unpressured silence, and a commitment to honor and listen to whatever arose.
It wasn’t an easy practice and I’m still working with it. But instead of my first thoughts being a list of “shoulds”, instead what emerged were curious questions. What bird is making that particular song? What was that dream all about? How would a big stretch feel right about now?
Or, I just quietly listened to the rain and followed my breath for a few moments.
It shouldn’t have felt as novel as it did.
Perhaps you are good at this. Perhaps your interior conversation is vast and flowing, a generous give and take between what the world tells you and what you have to say and feel about it.
My internal dialogue is not so well-developed. But these two small practices have started to loosen something entrenched in me. Just by a quietly radical act of listening to myself, and honoring that with the same attention I would give to the thoughts of a dear friend, something new is emerging.
I’m patiently waiting to hear what it has to say.
Photo taken by me on an early spring day with an iPhone.