Listening vs. Hearing

I was playing pickleball Sunday afternoon when suddenly I felt a pop near my right hip joint. Immediately, I turned my attention to controlling the now inevitable fall. My left knee took the brunt of it as I slid across the concrete. I decided to lay still for a while as I assessed the damage.

The fall gave me time to consider my life choices.

As I stared at the ceiling of the pavilion where we had been playing, I realized that I had listened to my grumpy hamstring, but I had chosen not to hear it. It’s been inflamed off and on for about a month. All of my fun summer activities were impacted. So I would rest it for a bit and then resume skiing, playing pickleball, riding horses and more. On Sunday, I decided to play even though my hamstring had told me to rest.

Did you catch that last sentence?

My hamstring had told me it needed rest. I listened to it, but I chose not to hear it.

This is a distinction that I’ve been honing for the last several years, since I first heard Bruce Anderson tell me to reach for my tools of listening and hearing. My first thought lumped both words into the same bucket of meaning. However, over time, I’ve come to see the distinction.

I can listen without hearing, and I can hear without listening.

Listening is about awareness. Hearing is about change.

While I was quite aware of my tired hamstring on Sunday, I wasn’t willing to change my plans to give it the rest it required. I had gotten away with it so many times over the summer. On Sunday, my exhausted hamstring took the decision out of my hands.

It reminds me of a little kid, pulling on Mommy’s skirt to let her know of something she really needs to pay attention to, like an iron burning through the carpet, or water overflowing the sink, or a baby bird flapping around in the yard. (All these things happened in my childhood 😊) At some level, Mom is aware, but not hearing until the impending disaster reaches a point where it demands to be heard.

What is it that gets in the way of our hearing? In the case of my hamstring, I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I love playing pickleball. Hearing would have interfered with what I wanted to do. When I have set in motion a “goal”, I’m very good at getting to the end to get that Gold Star, pushing all obstacles out of my way. It’s one of those “Dancing the Tightrope” balancing acts. On one side is hearing the truth in the obstacles and on the other side is perseverance through the inevitable difficulties. Knowing how to hear, truly hear, the truth in the distinction is the work of a lifetime.

Our past can interfere, causing us to see obstacles where there are none or causing us to see a green light when it’s clearly turning red.

It starts with being in the moment, something that is difficult to do, especially when the pressure is high. If you’ve read Dancing the Tightrope, you know that it’s all about raising our pressure threshold so that we are less impacted by fear and uncertainty.

Recently, I had an experience in a working session with Bruce and a formerly dangerous horse known as “round pen” Willie. (Yes, I’m still working on the principles I shared in the book!) Bruce (and Willie) showed me how my past interferes and takes me out of the moment, causing me to be the one to create monsters that aren’t even there.

I’ve seen three doctors this week, who’ve helped me narrow down the root cause and level of the hamstring injury. My left knee just got slightly skinned. As for the hamstring, the good news is that it’s not a full tear and I can go back to many normal activities while following a treatment protocol that will help me heal very quickly.

If you are interested what I’m doing to accelerate my healing, hit reply to this email and I’ll send you a list of what I’m doing. If my experience with Bruce and Willie intrigues you, let me know and I’ll send you a video of one of the coolest moments I’ve had in witnessing just how true the statement “we create our own reality” is.

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