Holding the Messes of Life with Ease and Balance
As we learned in this interview with Michelle Gale, connecting with others in friendship and community helps us recover the emotional equilibrium that supports our resilience. Here’s an exercise from Resilience that deepens that connection, and thus helps us experience and claim our own resilience.
Exercise: Deep Listening to Develop Resilience
The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.
– Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.
In this exercise, you experience the power of being listened to, to help you discover and appreciate yourself, your resilience. Allow thirty minutes for this exercise: time deepens the practice, the learning, and the rewiring.
1. Recruit a partner (a friend or colleague) to do this exercise with you. You can switch roles later, if you wish.
2. From the list of questions below, or similar questions of your own, tell your partner which question you would like to answer first.
What brings you joy in your life?
What brings you sorrow?
What worries you now?
When have you found courage in dark times?
What are you grateful for?
What are you proud of?
3. Your partner asks you the questions, listens quietly to your answer, not commenting but thanking you for your response, and repeats this process, asking the same question, for about five minutes.
4. Answer the question as honestly as you can. Notice how it feels to be listened to and received. Let your inquiry deepen with each repetition of the question.
5. When you have finished answering the first question, pause to reflect on your experience of yourself and of the exercise.
6. Continue to answer as many of the questions as you wish. Then you can also switch roles with your partner, starting with whichever question they would like to answer first.
7. When you and your partner have answered as many questions as you each wish, debrief together. What was it like for you to share your answers? What was it like to be listened to? What was it like to hear your partner’s answers?
The repetition of the questions allows your brain to delve more and more deeply into them and produce richer answers. The “little and often” practice of inquiry allows you to bring the processing of your brain into conscious awareness, creating a new, clearer sense of yourself and your resilience. The safety you experience in doing this exercise strengthens the brain’s social engagement system for both you and your partner. Being listened to and received deepens your trust in yourself, in your partner, and in the process of learning to be resilient.