The Art of Listening – by Kristine Grün

The job, the family, girlfriends; it all goes well, so what’s the problem? Why do you feel there is something not quite right?

I have gone through many stages in my life, where I have been not sure about which way to go, how to listen to myself or who else to trust and listen to. A nagging feeling of wanting more or that something is missing. I am probably an expert on analysing every angle of a given situation. At the same time, I feel that I am doing pretty well with following my heart too. However, I often feel a rising frustration that I do not always know where to find my intuition, when a bigger disagreement of mind and head is playing out. And where do I find it when I need it the most?

Many of us go around unconsciously accepting things that we basically do not think are right. As humans, we would rather not do anything about it, and so we easily build up negative thoughts. But why wait until a major crisis pops up? Many of us are so busy with everything that drains us of energy that we never get to think about what helps give us energy.

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. Think how the friends that really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius as though it does us good, like ultraviolet rays. This is the reason; when we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life; and even more so when we listen to ourselves.

When I think of the word Listen (to listen) I think of Listening to my inner self. My stomach, my gut. It is something I always want to practice, but I don’t find it easy peasy in every situation. A Coach once told me, that the best way to figure out what we want in life is to listen to ourselves, not our mind and maybe not only our heart, but deep within ourselves. I asked her, “How do I do that?” I kind of knew what she meant, but I just didn’t know how to really do it. Not really. She answered with one word: “Listen”. She continued, “Feel and listen. Inside. What makes your stomach relax? Try Yoga.”

We have all heard it so many times: “Just listen to your inner voice”, or “Just follow your intuition”, haven’t we? Listen to your gut. Breath. Feel. Listen to your stomach.

But do I listen?

What is the gut feeling? How do I feel it?

Follow your gut feeling – yes! But how does it feel? We talk a lot about following our gut feeling, but how do you find it and become good friends with it? How can you rely on it to be there?

Professionals describe the gut as more of a feeling: a kind of uneasiness in the stomach. A typical classic dilemma where gut feeling rears its head and guides you is often: choice of partner, friends, job, home, vacation and even bigger life decisions. And if you’re like most people, then you have probably tried to ignore your gut feeling in one or more areas – or maybe all of them.

If you perceive the gut feeling from the physiological angle, 90 percent of the serotonin is made in the abdominal cells. Only 10 percent of serotonin is produced in the brain. Serotonin is the stuff that is associated with happiness and influence the mood and appetite and helps to regulate your sleep. Serotonin also plays into your memory and ability to learn. So serotonin gives you a physical manifested rewarding feeling when you do what is right, and it can occur alone at the idea.

According to many experts, we do ourselves a tremendous favor by listening to the signals from our stomach. Even if it can feel a little frivolous to follow a “feeling” instead of so-called common sense. But gut feeling tells us what is important, and the values ​​that are essential for us to feel happy. It may actually show to be rational. It reminds us of who we are and how we want to live our lives.

Help, I cannot hear my stomach!

I often feel uncomfortable when I’m not sure about my gut feeling. Maybe you know this feeling?

I can listen and listen, until I’m desperate, but I cannot hear my gut and I can’t feel what is right to do. I don’t understand it – So – I have done a little research on this.

In a world, where rational thinking is considered to be the “normal” thing to do, the process of learning how to follow your intuition (and gut feeling) may show to be a confusing and even painful one. With so many decisions to make on a daily basis, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and feel stuck when in need of inspiration. Albert Einstein said it in the following line: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. (It seems) we have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift”.

The doubt arises because we aren’t brought up to listen to our impulses. We have namely learned that one must be careful and fit in, in order to ensure survival and acceptance. If you as a baby are crying, and your parents become frustrated, you will feel their emotions. The emotions overwhelms your impulses. We think it’s nothing personal, and that it is we who are wrong when we sing at the table, shout, cry, etc., thus we are trained to ignore our impulses. The “restrictions” our parents practice and teach us, is to make us social players in society. We now have a morality, but is also very fear-driven, and we may find it difficult to trust ourselves (and others). This dilemma will bring me to Disney tales in a bit!

The reason why our gut feeling gets unclear is that we are questioning our first sense, because we do not trust ourselves. We spend so much effort to suppress it. And it takes time to learn to trust ourselves again. So you might not notice it at first, but when you discover and let go of all the disturbing factors (often fear) which has been blocking you, you can listen.

IT IS important to learn to understand what is actually important and right for you, so your gut feeling isn’t based on past bad experiences and anxiety. If you suffer under unresolved pain, your decisions will be fear-driven. You may be ruled by fear of standing out, falling through, loosing, failing, instead of having a loving confidence that you can make choices that are good for you.

Especially when you travel a lot (or if you live in other cultures) you will go through many feelings, experiences, a million inputs and changes. And so it can be important to sometimes “stick a finger in the ground” to remember who you are, and to be true to you.

By acting on your gut feeling, you learn to trust your judgment and get shorter decision-making processes, but also self-esteem. It is a condition where you are happy, feel safe, are aware of our own values ​​and needs, and how and why it is important to get them satisfied. Amazing right? But that’s easier said than done. Most of us are in our head all the time. We assess, analyze, think, think and think a bit more. And it’s hard to get down in the body and feel, because we are simply not trained in it. So it ‘s all about practice. We must learn to dare to listen and learn that what we think and feel is true. OKAY!

Gut’n Love?

What I have learned through my, yet young, adult life is that following my gut feeling or intuition (when I do feel it) is essential to feel peace within. But gut feelings doesn’t bring you safely through life’s choices alone. Using your gut feelings in the best way requires you to have your consciousness with you. The more you use the link between the physical, instinctive sense and your evaluative and analytical side, the better you listen to yourself…in my opinion.

It’s believed that people in love listen to their hearts rather than their minds. “Love is a state of euphoria in which our senses become numb and it is just the beating of our hearts we can hear”. And so we are happily nodding our heads when listening to Roxette’s song: “Listen to your heart.”

When in love, logic or reasonable thinking takes a backseat: we either trust our intuition or listen to our heart. Being in love does not necessarily mean a state of euphoria or happiness. There will be certain circumstances where conflicting ideas or emotions arise. Keeping the love of your life involves different stages like commitment, trust and fidelity. At each of these stages, there are thoughts and feelings telling you what to do and when to do it. You need to listen to your intuition so that you can make smart decisions. But do not get blinded by love and act intuitively without considering the negative consequences. Have your consciousness with you. You will feel when something is wrong to you – or right. However, people in love should remember that trusting your intuition does not imply that you ONLY listen within. You may have put up a filter. Take notice of the signal from both your head and your heart. Work on waking up your awareness level of any given situation. You will be able to interpret what your intuition is telling you.

So should I still >Listen< to other people?

So should we only listen to ourselves? And throw away this bad habit of asking everyone for advice all the time?

We probably need to tone down the bad habit, to hear ourselves. But when people listen, creative waters flow. ALSO when listening to other people. Just as you need to listen to your inner self to truly know you – you can’t know anybody unless you listen. You will know facts and history, but you will not know one single person.

In order to listen, we need to try to live in the present a part of the time every day. Away with the Smart Phones! Be alone, it’s okay, it’s actually good for you (I’m actually quite bad at it) and I see this is a necessary step to take, to be able to listen to ourselves as well as others. Connect with the people next to you – and remember there is a great difference between listening and hearing. But don’t overdo it. Take time to be more mindful and stop rushing through life. If you are very tired, have no solitude, run too many errands, talk to too many people, drink too many cocktails, this little fountain of being present and listening is cracking. The result is you stop living from the center, the creative fountain, and you live from the periphery and directed by externals. And so you easily end up going along on mere willpower without imagination. Remember, it is not enough just to have the will to listen. One must really listen. Only then does the magic begin.

Oh Disney..

I grew-up with Wall Disney movies. Wonderful fairy-tales and characters of good and evil. Maybe you did too?

There are two tales in particular I want to mention, which I believe fits perfectly into the frustration of how to listen and whom to listen to, the fear of choices and the search for intuition. I found all my own frustrations perfectly played out by the Disney characters: Pocahontas and Elsa. Go figure.

My very first thought in writing something about Listening was Grandmother Willows advice to Pocahontas in Disney’s tale “Pocahontas”. This Disney tale is about communicating and listening, to solve problems and war. But it is also about listening within, to find ones true path. Pocahontas seeks advice from Grandmother Willow as she feels unsettled. Her father wants her to be steady like the river and to fit in. She feel forced inside a box. “But is life steady?” She questions. Grandmother Willow’s answer goes something like this: “Let me hear you dream. Listen to the spirits. Listen to the wind Child. Listen to your heart and you will understand.”

We also see it in the new Disney movie Frozen. Frozen takes on a more feministic female character than we have seen before and I like it. We can all dream of “more” and “perfect”, like The Little Mermaid, but Frozen draws a great picture of the frustrations we can go through in life while seeking answers. In Frozen the female Disney character Elsa grows up being told she mustn’t show her true self (her magic) to keep others safe and to fit in (she holds the power of Winter). We see her shame, pain and her relief when she runs away and finally do come into her true identity. She thinks she is now free, alone but free. The tale is about empowerment, but there is also tragedy, anger, bitterness, and self-deception in it, in even greater measure – by the end, she is in severe danger of losing herself. Elsa thinks as long as she shuts people out, and if that doesn’t work, as long as she’s far enough away, she’ll be okay. She is trying to convince herself that she can live with the turmoil inside. But she is lying to herself, and when she is confronted with what she has done to her home town she sings, “Oh, I’m such a fool, I can’t be free, no escape from this storm inside of me”. She is, in fact not yet free, and is not fine with the storm raging on inside her. She eventually returns home, abandon the ice palace, (while keeping the new dress and hair) and gets control over her emotions. In the end, she become her true self – fully in command of her powers, and on top of that beloved of her sister and her people.

The tale draws a brilliant picture of the fear of not doing well enough or not fitting in – running away as we think no one would understand us anyway. The character act based on fear. It cast light on the importance of fitting all key parts of us and life together – to be true to ourselves. You shouldn’t only live based on what other people think and want you to do, but at the same time you can’t live without people.

We do have the power to take control of our lives by listening more to what is going on inside us on a deeper level. In our life-decisions, we can combine our head, our values and morals, and our heart – it’s about listening! It’s about being true to yourself. Clearing your mind of repetitive thoughts and worries will make it easier to listen to your intuition.

There’s food for thought for most of us who have to learn to listen more to our instincts, but fortunately we can make good use of it. A change and good contact with your gut feeling requires you to throw away the idea that you have to be perfect. The idea of ​​being perfect is an illusion that
leads us away from ourselves. Be yourself that is perfect. It is a choice you must make conscious: I want to learn to listen to myself. But even if you have made the decision to get better at listening to your gut feeling, it does not happen overnight, and it is natural that you will initially experience the turmoil, because it takes time to break habits and patterns.

By writing this article I have found that the Art of Listening can be confusing, but it’s not so dangerous at all and it’s deeply necessary. There are plenty advice online. I have made a little “how to” list. Check it out!

Listen, feel and decide. Don’t fear but stand true to yourself. Live and enjoy.

About author

This article was written by Kristine Grün

Who am I?: I am still trying to find out! A young academic from Denmark with a Master's in social economics and a warm heart for Africa. My every day is full of great joy and happiness, but also tons of frustration. I have recently lived in Zimbabwe, where I feel just as home amongst drums, soup kitchens and wild nature - as I do in the streets of Copenhagen. It was is life..journeys. Now I find myself in London - on another adventure, yet again.


Comments (1)
  1. Kathleen McCarthy says - Posted: May 5, 2014

    This article was really awesome Kristine! The part about serotonin was completely new to me. Thank you for being part of this!

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