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  • Writer's pictureTamsin Hartley

A few questions to help brighten your day

The Listening Space is a process that uses a specific set of questions to help you explore what is on your mind in a way that can be constructive and very creative. What follows is a lovely story that was shared with me by a friend who held a Listening Space for someone she encountered in her local park. It helped him to settle his anxiety and bring some lightness to his day.

"I was sitting on a bench in my local park – a place I love to go to unwind – when I was joined by a lovely young man who I’ve come to know a little over the years. He’s been struggling with his mental health lately and seemed a bit jittery. He had his arms folded across his chest, as if to protect himself.

So, I invited him to sit beside me on the bench.

He explained that he been feeling particularly anxious lately and had started seeing a therapist. In fact, that morning he’d been thinking of calling his doctor to see if she could help. He said:

I’ve got a feeling just here.

He placed his hands over his belly just below his ribs.

I can’t describe it.

I don’t know what it is. I don’t know how to put it into words.

I gently asked him if he'd like me to ask him a few questions about it. He knows that I’m a coach and replied:

Oh, yes please!

So, I asked him the Listening Space questions about this feeling:

What kind of feeling is that?

[he paused a moment to get in touch with the feeling]

It’s a bit formless.

Is there anything else about that feeling?

It’s grey.

Whereabouts is that feeling?

At the top of my tummy, here.

Is that feeling on the inside or the outside?

Definitely on the inside.

It comes and it goes.

Does that feeling have a size or a shape?

It’s quite spikey at the edges and has roots that come out of it, like the roots you find when you pull a plant out of its pot.

Does that feeling have a sound?


Then, suddenly he said:

Ohhh. That grey thing … I think I’d like it to be yellow.

I wonder if I flipped it round and I got a different colour, I could get a feeling of excitement instead.

It would be yellow.

So, I asked him some more Clean questions about the yellow colour:

What kind of yellow?

Yellow like a buttercup. Buttercup yellow.

Wait, I can see a buttercup.

It is a buttercup.

Whereabouts is the yellow buttercup?

It’s in my heart.

And does that yellow buttercup have a sound?

No. No sound. It’s silent

He’s an artist and had been drawing as we spoke.

I asked him to reflect on what he noticed as he looked at his drawings. And then asked:

What do you know now about all of that?

When I’m in touch with my buttercup, that grey thing has gone.

And the heaviness, the weight has gone.

What difference does knowing that make?

It’s light when I’m in my buttercup, in my heart.

I’d been keeping things light and conversational, repeating back some of his words before each question. It felt like he’d been suppressing his feelings but was now able to express what was happening for him. The questions helped him to find words and images for a feeling that had been causing him so much discomfort. As a result something shifted inside him. He seemed somehow liberated.

He looked so much better when he stood up to leave. More relaxed. His whole posture had opened up, like the buttercup’s petals in the drawing he’d made.

The questions had also helped him to connect with his artistic self. He said he was going to create a painting of his discovery when he gets home. I’d be so interested to see it.

Finally, as we parted ways, he said he didn’t think he’d need to contact his doctor after all. It was only a brief conversation but it brought warmth and sunshine to my day and seemed to bring relief to his."

Bringing awareness to your inner experience using this specific set of questions often generates surprising insights in the way it did for this young man. You can even ask these questions of yourself. All you need to do is pause, give yourself time to notice any feellings you may have, and ask yourself some of these questions:

  1. What kind of [feeling word] is that?

  2. Whereabouts is [feeling word]?

  3. Is [feeling word] on the inside or the outside?

  4. Does [feeling word] have a size or a shape?

  5. Does [feeling word] have a sound?

  6. Is there anything else about [feeling word]?

Why not give it a try?

I'd love to know how you get on. You can leave a comment below.

And if you'd like to learn more about the Listening Space, you can read about it in my book or join a group live online course.

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