Lessons in listening: Speeding up to slow down
In the periodic occurrence of exceeding the speed limit, I have historically had the propensity to be ticketed. My most noteworthy offense occurred a number of years ago on my way to see his holiness, the Dalia Lama. I received a hefty fee and an exasperated shake of the head from the officer when he asked where I was headed to at the speed of light. I know of numerous friends and acquaintances who merely receive warnings when they are cruising above the magic number, but I have not been so fortunate. That is, until of late.
My commute from Vergennes to Middlebury is frequent, so I vary my sometimes twice-daily route. Each road has its particular advantages. Route 7 provides unrivaled views of Camel’s Hump over the expansive New Haven fields. Pearson Road passing into Morgan Horse Farm Road has the novelty of the rickety green bridge. On other mornings, I choose a path through Weybridge and across the twin bridges, hoping to eye-spy one of my friends out walking their dog.
On my most recent happenstance with a local sheriff, it was truly a spectacular January morning, sub-zero and not a cloud in the sky. As is customary for me, I always acknowledge the evil of my lead foot and await my fate with patient resignation. His return to my open window with simply a warning, caught me off guard and prompted my unsolicited gratitude and gabfest about what a glorious day it was and how it was none other than mother nature’s fault that I lost track of my speed. Needless to say, his stony stare reminded me to roll up my window and move along at the recommended speed without further commentary.
Although rather awkwardly, I was being honest with the officer. I experience January’s landscape as truly captivating from dawn to dusk. The quiet and clear starkness of the outside world lends justification to my craving for reserve and introspection. My hours are full with books and piano musings, as my physical nourishment abounds with soup and tea.
It is a time when space and possibility are created internally.
I have witnessed this inward inclination in many of my coaching clients as well. It is January, the contrived time for resolute behaviors, and they feel the outward pressure to leap directly into action. Yet what they feel is hesitancy. They can verbalize the change they want to make to support a healthier life, yet they stall in carrying out the steps necessary for the desired change.
When I was a novice coach, I would dread this moment in our sessions. I would watch as my clients shifted in their chairs and closed their bodies in tension and their minds in fear. The ambivalence in the room was palpable.
I have learned to welcome this phase of change now, as I know it is essential to give room for the uncertainty and often grief associated with change. You can’t muscle your way through ambivalence. You can try, but the outcome will be short lived. By getting to truly know and honor the internal challenge, you create the space where wisdom can meet ambivalence. In session, I may ask a client, “what is true?” It may take many rounds of that question, or possibly many sessions, but the more questions we pose to ourselves or each other, the more we set ourselves up to hear the answer.
For one client I partner with the ambivalence to be active is rooted in freedom. He is retired, and as he says himself, he has all the time in the world to move his body. But he runs into resistance every time he tries to set up even a loose schedule to move. The first step for him was to recognize that freedom is important to him and a plan to schedule regular gym workouts challenges this core value and need for him to be in charge of his own time. He felt rigidly controlled in his work environment and now that he was retired, he resists any constraints. Recognizing that this is his truth, instead of simply calling himself lazy, was essential. Next he just made room for it — acknowledging that he felt conflicted, valuing both mobility and freedom. Then he started to get curious about it, noticing that there is freedom in mobility. Once curiosity replaced judgment, we were able to explore how he might create a life that nurtures both of these values.
In this example, the primary way we touched into his wisdom was through self-compassion. We can practice this be getting quiet and really listening. As a coach, I know that what we practice regularly grows stronger. What would your life look like if self-compassion was your regular practice? What might be possible?
May you be kind to yourself this next month, as you touch into your inner wisdom.
Laura Wilkinson is a Nurse Practitioner and Health Coach at her new practice, Village Health. Learn more about Village Health at www.villagehealthvt.com.
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