Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person.
Rachel Naomi Remen
Think about how you feel when you know you have been heard. Listening offers a deep sense of being seen. The healing power of listening is immense. When I am heard I don’t have to try and prove my point. Nor do I have to prove the other wrong. Listening uses many practices: attention, being present, openness. Quaker writer Douglas Steere says, “Holy listening–to ‘listen’ another’s soul into life, may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.”
Deep listening is being willing to hear a different point of view and try to understand where that person is coming from. Listening does not mean you agree with what the person says, listening is telling that person you want to hear his/her point of view. It is not about changing their mind, it is about developing understanding. It is probably one of the hardest things to do–to listen without judging or trying to argue. Listening is a necessary ingredient if we are to begin to find common ground and rebuild our country on its founding principles. People calling on us with louder and louder voices are asking us to listen. Today there are a lot of loud voices and very little listening.
The Compassionate Listening Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering individuals and communities to transform conflict and strengthen cultures of peace. Their sole tool is deep listening to another’s story. Once a year they take a group of people to the Middle East to be a part of bringing Isralis and Palestinians together to hear each others stories. As the two groups sit in circle together and listen to each other, a shift takes place. By the end of the two days there are tears and hugs and a commitment to return to their homes and begin to bring people together. Has this stopped the conflict in this area, no. It has begun to build bridges of understanding, one person at a time, that ripples through each community.
May we all take time to deeply listen to those in our lives, and to those with a different point of view. As hard as it is sometimes, I believe listening can help build bridges of understanding and not walls.
I think I’ll have a brain garage sale.
I’ll declutter the thoughts
that roll around my mind
and stick to the corners of my heart.
I dust them off,
look at them,
really look at them,
and determine what’s no longer needed.
Act like a lady. (whatever that means)
Do it right the first time.
Idle hands are the work of the devil.
Girls can’t do that.
Don’t be so bossy.
Oh, so many old childhood messages,
hidden deep in my psyche.
They serve no purpose
but to create doubt and
Strengthening my old companion
Time to move them out,
let them go.
I may not be able to sell them,
yet the task of dusting them off
creates space for new stories.
What would you put in your Brain Garage Sale?
The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
I return to this poem to remind myself to rest in the grace of the world. This past week has been very tumultuous for me. As I watched Dr. Ford be dismissed, demeaned, mocked, and patronized. I was consumed with anger. I finally realized the anger was secondary to the deep grief I was feeling. We have not come very far. The Senate has now voted to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Take the possible sexual assault away, I am appalled that a man of his temperament and partisanship will sit on the highest court in the land.
I woke this morning and knew I had a choice. I could stay angry and grief-stricken or I could choose to reside in gratitude. As I returned to gratitude, I felt my whole body unwind. I looked around my home and realized how much I had to be grateful for. My friends, my clients who entrust me with their stories, my garden, the birds that grace my feeders, the seven miles of nature trails out my back gate, and so much more. These bring me joy and take me out of the anger and grief. Nature brings me back to my center.
I will not bury my head in the sand. I’ll continue to take action when I feel others are being unjustly treated, but I choose not to linger there. I choose to return to gratitude, joy, and hope.
May you choose to reside in gratitude for your health and well-being.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know all the scientific information about ant colonies. I just happen to have the privilege of observing one colony over the past two or three years. This colony sits right on the side of a trail I walk almost daily. I’ve watch it grow in the summer, be demolished by winter weather, and grow again the next summer.
I have been mesmerized by the bevy of motion on this ant colony. Movement is everywhere–tiny ants working individually yet in harmony to create such an amazing structure. One day while I was observing the activities I noticed a small stick about one in a half inches long moving across the path. I did a double take, it is not everyday you see a stick moving. There were 8-10 ants working together to bring this stick to the colony. I have so enjoyed the building, maintaining, and working together of this colony of ants.
My thoughts move to how we as humans work together to create towns, cities, countries, social networks we can all live within. At this time in history I feel the divisiveness and hateful rhetoric we hear is diminishing our ability to trust in each other to create the livable communities we so want to build. How do we bring back trust? How do we honor diversity and know it is our differences that create the new? How do we reach out and support our neighbors when so often it feels safer to hole up in our homes? Fear is the driving force of hate–may we find ways to combat the fear of the “other” and build sustainable lives for all of us.
I know the ants are instinctual, and fear is not a part of their living. They just work with each other building a colony for all. May we find ways to reach out to each other and build bridges of understanding.
“….what is my work, ….standing still and learning to be astonished. Mary Oliver, The Messenger
In his book Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help you find Health and Happiness, Dr. Qing Li shares a Japanese practice called forest bathing. He has conducted numerous studies that show the health benefits of forest bathing. Nature eases stress and worry, helps us to relax and to think more clearly. Being in nature can restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us.
When we unplug from technology, slow down, and relax into the beauty of nature, our bodies and minds de-stress. I first heard about forest bathing a couple of years ago and recognized the truth of nature as healer. The natural world is a place I go for joy, for solace, for experiencing a sense of awe and wonder. I feel connected to something greater than myself when I am in the natural world.
Dr Li says, “The key to unlocking the power of the forest is in the five senses.” When I walk the trails of the park behind my home I intentionally practice engaging all my senses. The sound of the birds and small mammals, the smell of the forest floor, the variation of greens throughout the park, and the feel of the earth beneath my feet. I don’t easily experience taste unless the salmon berries are out.
He recommends we find a place close by that brings us nature’s gifts. It could be a park, a tree in your backyard, any place that helps you relax and let go of the day. Above is a picture of where I go when I need a forest bath. It is less than a quarter of mile from my home. Walking there, I sit on a rock and listen to the rippling water cascade down past a wonderful old cedar tree. The sound of water always nourishes me.
I hope you can find a place you can retreat to, if only for 30 minutes. Give yourself the gift of a forest bath each day to support your body, mind, and spirit.