This last weekend I took a trip out to visit some family a few hours north of where I live. It was a much-appreciated break from day-to-day life, getting to be an auntie for a few days, playing and laughing with little ones. As I got in my car to embark on my drive back home, I impulsively reached for my phone to turn on a podcast or some music, then hesitated. I knew there were things in my heart that needed to be sorted out. The easy thing would be to drown out my thoughts and feelings with some noise, but I knew that’s not what I needed.
I chose at that moment to get quiet and listen and allow my heart to tell me its story. So that’s what I did. I took a seat at the table of my heart, invited God in, and let silence do its work in me for the next few hours. And let me tell you, I got more done in those few hours than I had in weeks. It’s amazing how much tension eased inside of me as I settled into the seat of listening. I began to see and understand with so much more clarity the nuances of my feelings, and as I began to understand, I was filled with compassion. That’s the funny thing about understanding and compassion, they often seem to walk alongside each other.
For those few hours I sat in silence, I heard so much. The sound of my tires rolling over gravel. The sound of the wind gliding over my car. The steady sound of breath moving in and out of me. But also, much more than that. The sound of anger and aching in my heart. The sounds of grief and longing moving through my being. The sound of wondering and questioning and curiosity. And finally, the sound of understanding and completion. A sigh of relief. A chuckle of laughter.
Listening is a most potent medicine. It’s amazing what can heal when you give it the space to tell its story, whether it be your own heart, a loved one, the earth, or an entire culture. Listening not only helps you understand someone better, but it also allows the one who speaks to understand themselves better. And I believe if you truly listen, anything will tell you its story.
I like to think of silence not necessarily as a void of sound, but more as a state of being. Sitting in the seat of silence and invite God in, you become the one who listens. And the more you cultivate a state of listening, the more you will hear. First, as you settle in, you will hear the sounds of life moving around you, whether it be a distant conversation, clinking glass, rustling leaves, or flowing water. But as you bring more of yourself into this experience of intentional listening, you will find layers of noise being peeled back, and you will begin to hear much more beyond the sounds that lay on the surface of life.
For example, you can listen to someone tell you a story about losing a loved one in their childhood. And underneath their words, you will likely hear the sound of grief, nostalgia, and even joy in their voice as they reminisce on sweet memories.
Or perhaps your significant other has become extremely angry about something that seems minuscule to you. But listen deeper. What is also here? Perhaps a longing to be seen more fully. Or challenging memories surfacing that were triggered by your action.
Or say you take a walk down a trail by an old creek bed. The spring has been diverted to become a source of plumbing for neighborhood homes. What used to be a community of flourishing wildlife has been deeply affected and reoriented, and the course of life forever changed by the removal of this vital source of life. Listen. What do you hear? The absence of the sounds of scurrying animals. Aching in the very body of the earth. Dry plants crunching beneath your boots, telling the story of life and death and inevitable change.
The story is always here, being told. But it's up to us to listen and hear it.
I believe listening to be one of the greatest acts of love we can offer another.
Much of the time, all one really needs to heal is to be heard. Imagine how different the world would be if each of us committed to listening more intently. How much conflict would be resolved, how many solutions would appear, how much pride would dissipate, and love would be amplified? It requires a certain level of humility to truly listen. To truly hear, one must arrive ready and willing to fully receive what is being offered to you. Perhaps it is not always what you want to hear. This is where humility comes in. But I believe as you give yourself more to listening, you will find that you receive much more than you could have imagined. Greater understanding is an invaluable gift that enriches our own life. The more understanding we have; the more compassion will naturally flourish within and between us.
As you enter deeper states of listening, you become more receptive to the foundational truths of life that are always being spoken out in the subtleties. You become an open space for life to tell its story. And you will find that it has much to say. The mysteries of life are unveiled only to those who know how to listen. I believe truth waits to see if one is listening before ever offering more of itself.
As you refine your ability to hear, it becomes much more difficult to get lost. You step out of compulsive behaviors because you can hear the guidance that is always moving through you, and you become one who waits to be moved. Wisdom will flow into you, as it does for anyone waiting to receive it.
I invite you to ask yourself, where in my life can I listen more? How can God help? What have I not been willing to hear?
If you listen long enough, the answers will come. And I think you will find them to be powerfully informative.
All the answers and solutions you seek are here, waiting for you to quiet down enough to receive them. Listen to life. Ask it questions. Hear its story. And tell me,
What do you hear?