A Signpost to Who I Am
June 24, 2022

artist impression of a heartJoanne Davies is a creator and artist. It’s been a joy watching her blossom on the Community Listener Programme. At first she doubted whether she actually had a project to share… but in the end she realised that Wellbeing Listening had permeated through her whole life. As she listened more deeply to herself she began to give herself space to be. Here is her project in her words.

I have been a habitual ‘watcher’ of people, of life. I do like people, just at a distance, and keep the real ‘me’ hidden, and unexpressed. It felt much easier to deal with people if I kept what I felt out of the way. This strategy worked for roughly 38 years until life and it’s events became overwhelming. Slowly, I started looking for better ways to cope by reading and listening to spiritually orientated books and people.

I am an artist and find great comfort, relief and sanctuary in paint, colours and the space of infinite possibilities in my imagination. Over the last 15 years I have slowly got braver, emerging from my watching, hiding place. To my great delight the Community Listening Project has encouraged me to step into turning up as me knowing this is all that is required, and I am safe to do so.

At first I didn’t know what my project was!

Despite knowing I truly and definitely wanted to be part of the Community Listener Programme I did feel properly anxious and doubted my contributions to each meeting. I followed the advice of being open and curious about who or what group I was drawn to working with for my project. Nothing was springing to mind, possibly something art based as I already run a small Zoom Art Group. In my first discussion with my Mentor about project selection I found myself confessing that my honest, gut reaction to my project was “oh no, hide!” I experienced her response of “well, perhaps hiding is part of your project” as magical.

My mind was saying “huh?, no way” but simultaneously as I heard her words I felt a calmness, a wonderful space of acceptance. I got that there was no need to reinvent myself in any way. Perhaps do the art Zoom that I already do, but when I turn up with what I have gleaned from the Community Listening the space created will be different. I also wondered if I would ever feel that calm centred space again that my mentor had shared with me.

Despite my revelation on the art zoom my motivation to advance my project and seek my groups consent to take part remained at zero. Deeply reluctant to disturb the existing set up I wondered what else I could do and stayed with being curious remaining open for any spark of inspiration to shed light on what path to pursue. My inner guidance stayed stony quiet.

In the meantime I applied the understandings I had taken on from our sessions to every interaction and conversation that I could. Learning about myself as I went.

Experiences of ‘Wellbeing Listening’

A couple of months in to Community Listener I took the opportunity to ‘practice my listening skills’ during a conversation with a neighbour. They had a few troubles they wished to share, and I found myself holding back, doing my listening and repeating to myself in my head that “They are all okay, nothing needs fixing, just listen”. I listened as they talked and I gave the best of my attention without needing to jump in with comments, speaking only if I felt particularity moved to, which I actually did not. I repeated my “just listen, they do not need fixing mantra a few times”.

What dawned on me the following morning was that I was trying too hard to be a good listener rather than relaxing and just being. Part of me still believed that I needed fixing, to be better. Settling in to me, knowing I am okay, is a different space to come from and takes far less effort. I can also be more fully there, and get out of my own way.

Over the last 5 months I have attended many medical appointments with my Mum including her diagnosis and treatment of cancer. I have an ongoing cancer journey myself. Being able to be present and still, meant I could listen and feel able to ask questions on my Mum’s behalf. What could have been a series of triggering and upsetting events have been straightforward.

Through the beautiful sharing of the Community listening team I also found the ability to be calm, and fully present with my beautiful dog Moses when he passed in March.

Some of my insights from the programme are as follows:

It is okay to turn up just as I am and be curious about what is there. No need to be anything else other than me. When you have a spent a half a lifetime convinced that you have to do what other people want you to be in order to accepted this is relief. I now belong to me.

Space is helpful. When I have no idea what to say or what I want, I wait. I can be patient with myself, comfortable with being vulnerable. There is no urge to come up with an immediate solution or answer or fix a situation. This a blessing especially in an argument with my husband. Previously, I would scrabble to find words to defend, justify or ameliorate myself or the situation. Now I pause, listen and wait. Words come through me that I not thought of and arguments dissipate quickly leaving no overhanging residue, the air is clear. Sometimes what happens is magical and I learn more about myself and my husband. I am comfortable being uncomfortable. I do not like the uncomfortableness one bit, but I trust the space, and know at some point it will pass.

I can choose my thoughts and change them. When I change my thoughts I change how I feel. They key for me was to notice my thoughts, the nature of them. On one stand out occasion I was triggered into a familiar pattern of how rubbish I am at painting quickly nosediving in to a pit of gut wrenching despair. I managed to catch my thoughts, telling them that they were not true and even if they were it does not matter. My inner turmoil halted instantly as if I had flicked a switch. A huge relief as I could previously easily had the cloud of despair over my head for the rest of the morning. I was so surprised that this worked and so grateful it did! Knowing I am separate to my thoughts, and how changeable, random and creative they are at getting me to believe them is very helpful.

A signpost to who I am. I have learned that I am not my thoughts, my memories and experiences, or my physical or energy bodies. Liz told us a beautiful, illustrative description of who we are. The picture she painted in words to me was remarkable, and part of me stayed looking at the picture in my minds eye for weeks afterwards, mesmerised and letting it sink in. Do ask Liz to share her description with you.

The space created on the Listener Programme on several occasions provided me the experience of hearing and deeply feeling what was said. I could hear the words being shared from a participant and feel them resonating with me way beyond the meaning of the words. They felt uplifting and expanding. Equally, the experience I had of feeling fully listened to, received, accepted was extraordinary, beautiful, and transformative.

By the end of the programme I had still failed to come up with a project,  group of people, or even just one person I felt inspired to work with. My worry and overthinking calmed down giving way to  bewilderment and a good dose of making myself wrong and flawed. That said, on coming to final discussions on projects I had arrived at a space of calm and the project no longer mattered. Initially this felt odd as the whole point was to create and execute a project that involved a community in some way. This is calmness is a curious and very different version of me. The previous version of Joanne would have a long list of critical comments and made a song and dance out of my long list of failings and inadequacies. relieved that I have finally stopped beating myself up. Perhaps I could be braver, or better organised, perhaps my project has yet to arrive. I remain open to it making itself known.

Gemma, my mentor, reminds me that it is not about what you do, it is about how you do it.

I love a good conversation. I feel I am nourished by being still, receptive and open to what is here. Do I always manage to listen fully? No, but I am an ongoing work in progress. I feel good about being as fully here as I can be and sort of okay about not knowing.

colourful art of blue orange and green

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About Inner Compass

Liz Scott & Stu Newberry are trainers, coaches and speakers. They work with individuals and groups across the UK. They also help develop coaching cultures (founded on wellbeing) within schools and organisations.

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