Shift Your Focus

Improving listening skills is vital for better communication and stronger relationships. Here we explore the shift from old habits that hinder communication to new practices that foster deep understanding and connection:

Move Away FromMove Toward
Waiting to ShareFocus on What is Shared
Quick to ReactPause to Respond
DistractedBeing Present

Each one of these pairs represents a chance to improve your listening skills. Mindfulness meditation is at the core of each Move Toward recommendation. What is most challenging for many who consider the practice of meditation is that they find it too difficult or not something they are cut out to do. You are not alone. I could not meditate successfully when I first began. So what can be done?

Given there are so many obstacles that can get in the way of quieting the mind, there are ways to work through this often challenging form of centering. The first step that supported me and many like those of us who find it difficult at first is to ask for help before you assume you “can’t” do it. When I taught figure skating invariably students who believed something was too difficult would often respond with, “I can’t!” 

I would pull out a marker and write the word “Can” on the ice. Then I would underline the word and proceed to draw a vertical line down from the underlined word and add the letters, “ry” spelling “Try.” We both had a laugh and I would proceed with, “Let me show you how before you adopt the idea that something is impossible.” Asking for help is the first step.

Obstacles that often get in the way include stress, exhaustion, hunger, pain, and strong emotions. The very reason we meditate is to reduce stress that can lead to exhaustion and compound the issue. Therefore it comes with the practice of meditation itself that allows us to overcome these very stresses in our lives that lead us to meditate in the first place.

It can also help to better understand the benefits of meditation which include boosting the immune system. High stress levels for extended periods of time and experienced with frequency release the hormone in the body called cortisol. Lower levels of cortisol flowing through the body allow it to fight off infection. The added benefit is that less cortisol triggers reduce inflammation as well as chronic pain and the higher risk associated with heart disease. 

Through meditation, you can also lower your blood pressure. As an athlete, my training over time lowered my blood pressure which was a positive outcome among many because I developed improved focus and learned to maintain calmness over the many years I skated. When I would go for a physical, my doctors noted my lower blood pressure. This led to a calmer state of being that developed over time in skating. It served me well from a health perspective. 

There are alternatives to meditation. One significant alternative for me was practicing compulsory school figures; in those figure eights, we would draw on the ice with our blades as we continued round and round the circles until we achieved excellence in shape and tracing of the patterns. Although figure eights are no longer a compulsory part of the sport, other meditative practices such as walking in nature, gazing up at the clouds, and rhythmic drumming are a few options to consider.

What shocked me when I began meditating twenty years ago was discovering that all those years of figure skating proved meditative. I had no idea that I already knew how to meditate. I just hadn’t been told about it. When I discovered that, I was reminded of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz learning that she could go home all along after a whimsical journey through the land of Oz.

While I may not be a meditation teacher, I’ve learned from my teachers how to meditate and help others get started. So allow me to offer a sneak peek at what I’ve learned to do and perhaps you will want to try it yourself before you adopt the belief that you CAN’T!

Click here to meditate along with me.

Learn more ways to practice your listening skills in Try This.