My dad was hearing impaired which in the old days meant he was ‘hard of hearing.’ His unconscious compensatory behavior led him to deep listening. Surprisingly, part of my unconscious teaching from him was recognizing that listening is ‘more than hearing with our ears.’ It wasn’t until I was in my mid twenties however that I became aware of this deep listening by living in solitude for four months of winter in the Colorado Rockies.
During this time of retreat and reflection, I heard the silence beyond the silence and the wordless thoughts beyond thought. I felt the elements with my body, the vibrations within my being and the compassion beyond words that lives in the heart. I learned that language can go beyond speech and even beyond thought. I felt the mountain, the snow, the birds and trees as part of a whole and my self as part of a much larger Self.
The unexpected gift of Divine love beyond the storms of activity and human interaction reawakened a dormant awareness within my soul. It opened in me a deep listening to every gently falling snowflake and every violent wind that came at will without comment or excuse. It healed my heart as the sun blazed in the azure sky clearing the clouds within that held me prisoner. A healing process began for me that continues to this day.
Mark Nepo, in his beautiful book Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, says that “Deep listening mixes the grit of our humanness with the dust of the stars, retrieving in the exchange an indestructible and life-giving connection.” I found and continue to find this ineffable truth. I walked into that primitive miners cabin at eleven thousand feet a broken man and walked off the mountain healed and confident that anything was possible.
The Source of Life is always and everywhere for us and with us. The difficulty is in knowing it. When we learn through great Love and great Loss our connection with this living Essence, the experience of God, the many doorways of life open to us in ways that are sometimes unimaginable. The aim of deep listening then is to be continually involved in the practice of connecting to the Source through our attentive awareness.
This is accomplished by making space inside ourselves where Being can speak and we can deeply listen. Mostly, however we’re caught up in the many storms of activity so we fail to listen and hear anything but the noise of the outside world. The sirens of distraction are legion but we can learn to spend time below the noise. It simply calls for a quiet courage to frequently step away from the fray to find this healing way.
It’s our destiny to relax into the wonderful and natural world of deep love and deep listening where we can enter the silence until it enters us. At my dad’s death I experienced this. The man who taught me deep listening gave me a silent message as he passed. ”I’m fine. It’s now up to you. Listen and follow your heart.” And so it is. . .