On the 13th June I visited Kew Gardens for the first time in months. I was so excited to be getting in my car, meeting a friend and going somewhere other than the local Common for a walk. The usual noisy traffic hotspots on the way to Kew were beautifully quiet. Once in the gardens the beautiful quiet continued. Numbers were restricted so us humans weren’t making a lot of noise. Air-traffic was also restricted so the low flying rumble of Heathrow planes arriving and departing wasn’t noticeable. We listened without interference to the birdsong and the humming of bees amidst the glorious flowers and trees.

I returned to Kew Gardens on the 27th June. And while the gardens will always be a magical space, an oasis of botanical wonder in the heart of West London, the shift in my experience of travelling to and from there, and being there, two weeks on, was significant. The usual noisy road traffic hotspots en route were…err…noisy and hot. Air traffic noise was up a notch. Us humans were more noisy. I did hear some birdsong but I had to consciously pay attention. I didn’t hear the bees in the flowers and trees. I forgot to listen.

Which brings me to the theme of the month: LISTENING.

In my coach training back in 2002 I learned a lot about listening. It was a revelation to me to realise that the way I listened was a THING. What I paid attention to as I listened, who I listened to and my overall objective in listening was a product of my upbringing, life experiences, education and professional training. I was the listener I was because of my history.

Through my coach training I learned to develop my listening skills to become more conscious of how I listened…what were my filters, what was I listening out for, why was I listening in the first place, what was my intention/agenda/objective, what happened when I invited my body and heart in to listen as well as my mind? I also learned to expand beyond my habitual approach of listening to spot inconsistencies and problem-solve, key requirements of the auditor and M&A advisory careers I’d been using my listening skills in up until that point. With practise and over-time, I learned to listen to others and myself in a new, more rounded and inclusive way.

Lockdown has expanded further my exploration and development of listening skills.

The contrasts for me have been stark.

Never before have my surroundings been so quiet. The absence of siren noise, traffic noise, and the usual living noise associated with being 7 minutes walk from a mainline station has been palpable. And wonderful.

Never before has my inner world been so accessible and available to listen to. Both marvellous and terrifying.

Never before has the pull of social media for company and information been so compelling. And noisy and contradictory and ungrounding…all powerful forces limiting capacity to listen.

Through lockdown listening I have been reminded that it’s a lot easier to listen when it’s quiet…quiet outside of me and quiet inside of me. I’ve also been reminded of the difficulties of listening for truth. Some of my own enquiries to explore this have included:

How do I get beyond the internal conditioning and habits of mind I’ve lived with and believed for years? How do I get beyond the multiple agendas and loudest voices on social media, and discern what feels like truth to the truth-teller within me? How do I stay open and listening to both myself and others even when it gets very uncomfortable?

You may want to play with these enquiries yourself and/or play in The July Listening Challenge.

The July Listening Challenge

For those up for the challenge, put on your listening glad-rags and ponder on these beautiful questions throughout July (and beyond if you get hooked…which I’m hoping you will):

Awareness

Generally

·     What am I listening to?

·     Who am I listening to?

In specific situations

·     How am I listening?

·     Why am I listening?

Developing

·     How can I listen to myself with more care and wisdom?

·     How can I listen to other people with more care and wisdom?

·     How can I listen to the voices on social media with more care and wisdom?

Stretching

·     How do I listen for truth within the multitude of voices inside myself?

·     How do I listen for truth in the cacophony of voices outside of me?

A Radiant Future

Final few words on listening from me.

My new online course Navigating Uncertainty started on 8 June. A few weeks in and I’m listening to it. (Yes you can listen to creative projects too).

What quickly became apparent was that the course wanted a more directional head-line for a name so I’m pleased to introduce A Radiant Future to you. The second journey through the course begins on 10 August 2020 and runs over 8 weeks. At its heart the course is about listening for direction within the ambiguity you are experiencing and laying the foundations to chart a new path in your life, work in the world, or both. It allows you to be part of a structured, guided and confidential transformation process with a small group (8 maximum) of like-minded companions who become your professional and personal allies.

You can learn more about A Radiant Future – How to navigate uncertainty and chart a new path’ and book a place HERE.

Enjoy listening. Enjoy July.

Please feel free to forward this article on to anyone you believe may benefit.

Cover Image by skeeze from Pixabay