I was recently at a family gathering... people I love dearly (my family!) but have not seen for a while. We were all in one room, 20 or more of us, toddlers up to those in their 80s. It was alive with sound and activity; to be honest, it was a cacophony of sound. LOUD. We have gathered many times over the years, and it was probably always this way, but this was the first time I really stopped to pay attention. Normally, I was yelling. Yelling to be seen, to be heard... to win. But this time I was able to see something else, and I was amazed. No one was listening, and I wondered: Maybe this is why everyone was yelling?
I admit, I am a crap listener. Always have been. Most of my life I have wanted to be seen, acknowledged, praised for what I knew. It was all about me, what I could get or what I needed, but recently something has changed. I have less to say and more to give, and I think it is because I have been practicing listening. Why? Good question. I do not know, but it feels right.
Maybe you think I am practicing listening to other people, which I do, because you cannot truly connect with another person without deep listening. But what I am talking about is listening to places and things unknown to me. The other stream of life that has gone unnoticed because it isn't loud. The inside of myself that is untouched, innocent and clear. To the soft voice of the land, the birds, the ocean, my own heart. The silence that knows me, but I have yet to discover. It is my sense that I have a lot to learn from this place. So this is my practice.
When I do it right I experience listening as prayer. Listening brings me into the moment, into the stillness, for if I am really listening, I am not thinking. It becomes an offering to that which has not been heard and in this way it is prayer.
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Sufi teacher and author, states it beautifully:
Listening is a relationship, even in the silence when nothing is heard. Learning to listen is to allow ourself to be present without imposing or demanding, to hold a space where something can be told, where a meeting can unfold, where openness is answered.
There is a practice I have learned about from the scholar and mystic Peter Kingsley that hails from the ancient roots of Western culture (Greek), and according to Kingsley it is the origin of the term "common sense." The practice, as I understand it, is to listen with all aspects of yourself or with all your senses at once. Open yourself to listen with the skin, the heart, the eyes, with your tongue, all at the same time. Just open. Feel the wind, hear the birds, the vibration of the ground beneath you and the taste of the air. Be fully present and open to the sensory experience that is happening right now. And through this, you are centered in the moment. Present at the center of your being where all your senses are common... united. In this place you are no longer you. You are everything, and prayer is happening.
As simple as this might sound, I believe that listening can provide us a pathway to the future. Maybe through this kind of prayer we can heal ourselves, others and the land. I feel the simple act of listening with presence, with the heart, shows respect for the part of ourselves we do not know, for those we have not met and for things we do not understand. It is a recognition of the sacred. Maybe our attention is more powerful than we know? If this is the case, then we have a responsibility to make this offering. Please join me in this practice and tell me what speaks to you.
Here is a link to the sounds our universe makes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQdrcDyYRiQ.
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