Stop and Listen.

Often times, during the writing process, I can get caught up in my thoughts. I become what can only be described as “feverish.”

I get caught up in a loop of thoughts and emotions and solutions and plot points and worries and directions I need to go in and directions I should avoid and criticisms that need to be addressed and shortcomings that need to be improved upon and accomplishments that need to be acknowledged and conflicts that need to be resolved and places I need to be and people I need to meet and things I must prepare for and things that are out of my control but that I must accept and tasks that need to be accomplished and mysteries that need to be solved and unsolvable mysteries that I need to make peace with and… and… and…

When I become feverish it’s over: there is no way I can make positive progress. I don’t know where I am and I don’t know where I need to go. I’m stuck: caught up in a net of thoughts, a merry-go-round of feelings and sensations–a spinning wheel of actions and reactions that don’t result in positive solutions.

There is no hope for me there in that feverish state. I am lost.

Here is when I usually do two things that finally release me from my fever trap:

I stop and listen.

For a moment, there is silence.

And then, eventually, the answer comes. And it’s usually a simple and straightforward answer. That’s when I suddenly realize that I’ve been standing, or sitting, or doing nothing but thinking. Or, I suddenly realize that I’ve been doing a lot of “something” but none of it has been productive.

But luckily, now that I’ve stopped and listened, the way is clear. I can move forward now.

We Live In A Culture That Does Not Appreciate The Power of Listening

We have become a culture that prizes talking over listening. Thinking over stopping.

Talking and doing are seen as more admirable than stopping and listening. In fact, stopping and listening are both seen as a threat to our overall “efficiency.”

The argument against stopping and listening goes something like this:

“We don’t have time to ‘stop and listen’ anymore. We have to go, go, go. We have to think, think, think. We have to talk, talk, talk.”

If we have a big problem to solve, we either have to do something about it, think about it, or talk about it–until we’re completely out of breath–in order to arrive at a solution.

But how can we do something about a problem–how can we think about a problem–how can we even talk about a problem if we don’t even know what the problem is? We need to be certain about what the problem is before we can even begin to think, talk, or do something about it. We need to uncover the real problem before we can even begin to solve it.

And how do we figure out what the real problem is?

We stop and listen.

Listening will help us figure out the source of our current dilemma. But without listening, we cannot solve the problem.

Sure we can think, talk, and do our way through a problem we don’t completely understand, but then all that thinking, talking, and doing will not arrive at a positive, constructive solution. Such doing, thinking, and talking without listening is completely inefficient.

Therefore, it’s wrong to assume that we “don’t have the time to stop and listen anymore.” The truth is that we can no longer afford NOT to stop and listen.

Stop and Listen.

Listening is a very underestimated tool in life.

Listening can even save your life.

If you, like me, tend to get into a state of thinking, talking, and doing that could only be described as “feverish,” then maybe what you need to do is stop and listen.

If you stop and listen, you might be able to hear your body telling you:

“Hey: I’m exhausted. You’ve been going without a good night’s sleep for days. I’m not gonna let you be productive unless you give me a rest.”

If you stop and listen, you might be able to hear your heart tell you:

“Hey, I’m broken. I’m not gonna let you do any work unless you shed some tears first (and process all this sadness that’s been weighing us down).”

If you stop and listen, you might hear your community tell you:

“Hey, where have you been? I’m not gonna let you go back into that cave, alone and buried deep in your work for weeks on end, unless you spend some quality time with me.”

If you stop and listen, you might hear your spirit tell you:

“Hey, where are you going? You know that this is not the way. I’m not gonna let you put your energy into something that does not serve your purpose in this life. So, I’m gonna tug you away from this false path until you honor me.”

Ahhh. See how listening will help you properly diagnose the problem, and offer you a clear path to the solution?

Sometimes our current challenge appears to have only a complex solution. But, more often than not, we can solve our current challenge by  doing something that’s infinitely simple and straightforward:

We can stop and listen.

much love,


Today’s Courage Exercise

Stop and listen.

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19 comments on “Stop and Listen.

  1. Andrea Lewis says:

    As humans, we tend to want to over complicate our lives and demand the solutions to our problems be instantaneous. But it doesn’t work that way. I check in with myself every morning and as needed throughout the day to stop and listen. My mantra is: Just BE! I find staying present reduces a lot of needless suffering. In the past I felt like a hamster going round and round in a cage, searching for answers.

  2. Profound. Yet so simple. Stop. Listen.

    I, too, get caught up in what I call frenetic activity. It usually leads to little progress and over-tiredness. Over the top fatigue. I make to-do lists for one day that should be stretched over one week, even two. I get myself all scared and fear-filled that if I don’t accomplish these tasks and goals, that I will be…punished? lose touch with my purpose? make no progress? All of those things. I live in fear. And then I can’t go further – my body is screaming “stop!” and my spirit is hiding in a corner and my heart is nowhere to be found. Until I stop everything and truly listen for spirit, who slides out of the corner, and to heart, who was there all the time but who speaks quietly. And my body, who just wants a break.

    Thanks for the reminder that all of us are subject to this cultural expectation of doing, doing, doing. For the reminder that our bodies, our hearts, our spirits are lots smarter (& kinder) than the sum of all that doing. Thanks, Ollin. And have a heartful day.

  3. Sandee says:

    This is such an incredible blessing and affirmation for me today. Yesterday (as on many days), I got so caught up in thinking about all the things that needed to be done. I felt totally overwhelmed and began the black spiral down into the pit of depression. I’ve worked so hard to get out of that pit and one of the biggest ways I’ve done that is just what you said: Stop and Listen. The Wisdom in my heart is finally able to speak in its still small voice and I know all is well and all shall be well. I need to slow down and realize I am not in control of life but it is a wonderful gift if I will just take time to stop and focus on all my blessings. Thanks for writing the words I needed hear, Ollin.

  4. Jim says:

    I don’t feel so bad now for just laying back and thinking. I am retired now, 2 years ago, and if you think that it’s all about going in the backyard and tending roses, you’re wrong. I have so many things I want to do and so little time to do them. I am a proactive person who wants to do a lot on the internet but which way to go? All the frenetic marketing concepts to implement, which one to do first? oh BTW don’t forget keeping up the house, or the maintenance on the cars, or the groceries,(yes I have a spouse but she still works), keeping maintenance on the house. etc.

    But I have found that by lying down and reorganizing my thoughts into priorities that I can actually get a lot more accomplished after a session of down time. Taking time out to listen to my body to re-energize myslef allows me to focus in on what is important at that time.

    I actually felt bad in the beginning of this exercise because I wanted to be productive, and you can’t be productive unless you’re doing. Well now I know and you know better.

    • Ollin says:

      Right? I’m not saying that we should do nothing–of course not. Just that we need to know why we are doing what we are doing. And the only way to do that is to first stop and listen, and then proceed.

  5. Simply beautiful and remarkably apt in an increasingly noisy life. Thank you!

  6. Excellent post Ollin – thank you so much for that, certainly is apt, I can relate.

    I really love the internal dialogues and monologues with the body, heart, community and spirit, very well thought out to help you keep in tune with yourself.

    I think it really stopping and listening helps to give you a strong anchor and clear focus as to how to proceed when flying in the face of chaos, kind of like “Stop the world, I need to get off for a minute…ok I’m ready again, let’s go!”

    Enjoy all your posts – very inspiring and useful.


  7. Zesty Brew says:

    The never-ending struggle to remain present in a world that spins too fast. Instead of listening we wait to be heard, so true. Thank you for an insightful reminder!

  8. erica says:

    When you mentioned, “We don’t have time to ‘stop and listen’ anymore. We have to go, go, go. We have to think, think, think. We have to talk, talk, talk,” I instantly thought about overcoming barriers to effective listening. Listening seems like a very simple procedure yet its overlooked almost everyday. The question is, why is something so simple so difficult to do in todays world? Your blog answers this question in such a simple, wonderful way. By just truly listening and remembering what was said is a simple solution to making any environment more effective.

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