Many of us are in recovery because we abandoned ourselves. We thought the feelings and wants of others were more important that our own. This destroyed our sense or worth, and made us needy, unable to function as adults, constantly looking for others to adult us, and/or indulging in unhealthy behaviors. After the initial crisis of a brain health event has passed, the next step is to learn how to self-care, to become an adult, capable of creating and growing self-esteem from within, capable of managing and attending to discomfort, capable of self-love. Recovery, like therapy, is a process of re-parenting. There is no shame associated with this, only opportunity. We understand the many paths to getting here, we accept ourselves as we are, and we commit to growing in joy. We are not defined by our pains, illnesses, or disorders, we are defined by our capacity and practice of compassion, kindness, and love towards ourselves and others.
We cannot care for ourselves unless we know what to address. That requires listening attentively to ourselves. This is where mindfulness comes in – achieving the stillness of the mind and body that allows us to hear what we and the universe is saying. There is an old saying that praying is when you are talking, meditation is when you are listening. We must listen to the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our being. Where are our physical pains, what are we feeling, when do we need to sooth and love ourselves and others. Mindfulness is not something to be practiced once in a while, mindfulness is something that is practiced continually. Life is a meditation, and mindfulness helps us achieve that meditation through listening, as well as the questioning and responses the listening evokes. We first learn to listen to ourselves, something many of us have forgotten to do, and then we learn to listen to our surroundings, other people, and the entire universe, constantly. Listening will evoke compassion for ourselves and others, and the desire to act with kindness.
For many of us in recovery, listening to our pains, feelings, and spiritual needs has been so painful that we have sought to block them out with addictions, compulsions, impulsiveness, defensiveness, and various other unhealthy behaviors. Learning to listen again may require some professional assistance and/or a confidential, non-judgemental, support group. Here we can safely explore our feelings with the support we need during this process.
Deep listening requires the cultivation of patience; cultivating the wisdom to know that like our breath, cravings, feelings, thoughts, and pains rise, crest, and subside; cultivating the patience to surf the waves of rising, cresting, and subsiding; cultivating the techniques that allow us to detach from toxic feelings associated with memories, mind-reading, future telling, etc; cultivating the wisdom to see everything as if for the first time, even in our hours of greatest struggle; seeing the beauty within and around us.
Deep listening, first to yourself, and then to others, is not an easy skill to develop. It requires patience, commitment, and a level of distress tolerance. Beyond crisis intervention, it is one of the first and most important steps to recovery. You must learn to care for yourself, and that starts with attentively listening to yourself. You then must learn to continually listen to yourself, your surroundings, and others, in the present, instead of being lost in regrets of the past, fantasies of the future, and unhealthy behaviors aimed at blocking out yourself and the universe. Be open to yourself and the universe, listen, and you can start the path to recovery.