See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun – how they move in silence…we need silence to be able to touch souls
– Mother Teresa
Hearing: the special sense by which noises and tones are received as stimuli.
Listening: to hear something with thoughtful attention : give consideration.
In the first part of the series, we paid attention to the fact that what surrounds us individually and collectively as deep wounds, discomfort, and huge disruptions in our communities, cultures, and humanity, locally and globally, are actually symptoms and not the real source of the challenge, or in other words, not the heart of the matter.
If we each feel this to be true, how can we start the journey together into the heart of the matter?
This is my next invitation. This is not an easy one. Whether you feel you are in a marathon, or in a sprint, or both, this is the part of the journey we cannot skip. It is the foundational piece. It is the foundational piece as it helps us combine our power with love, before we take action.
The invitation is, to LISTEN. And to listen, we need the space of SILENCE.
We therefore call upon silence into our lives, to be able to listen.
Silence opens up our true listening. When we only hear, the urge is to react. Also to hear we don’t need silence, we only need our ears to be working.
Whereas listening needs silence. To rise above our inner noise of triggers, biases and judgments that we project, and, to rise above the noise around us that we are being fed. To get to our inner voice which is grounded in our being (not doing), and to reach the inner voice of the other (grounded in their being). For this we need silence. The listening emerges from it.
Gordon Hempton, a renowned sound tracker of natural sounds in ecosystems, and who therefore understands Silence (and also quotes Mother Teresa in his work), says
`Silence is not the absence of something, but the presence of everything’.
What does he mean? What is this quality of silence? What is this quality of that listening?
Let me bring it to you, in one of the powerful ways I have experienced it, time and again:
For many of us who have been to an Indian jungle with an apex predator like the tiger, if lucky, we have experienced this quality of silence. We have witnessed this listening of the jungle. As visitors or nature lovers on a safari, we first come to sense that a tiger could be on the move somewhere around us, not because we spotted it, but because that part of the jungle switches into alert stillness. All of us in our jeeps, slowly tune into this alert stillness as well, with the rest of the jungle. Mind you, this is not a lazy pause, but a deep alertness where every cell in the body of the surrounding prey has moved into heightened presence. The prey isn’t reacting. It hasn’t started to run, it is not in a rush to act. It is listening, not to any other sound, but to what is emerging as important cues from that silence – be it the particular warning call of the common langurs (Semnopithecus entellus); be it catching the scent in the possible direction; be it any movement around the surrounding foliage; listening is what is going to truly help it respond appropriately, help its body take the right course of action, from that state of presence.
So, the silence I am inviting you to, is this kind.
The one that brings forth what IS. Not what we think it could be, should be, ought to be, or shouldn’t be, even before knowing what IS.
We need this quality of silence, this quality of listening now.
There is too much hearing, and our systems, societies, communities, organizations are in a constant reactive state.
Such a state is both ineffective, and energy consuming.
In Nature, energy is a very expensive resource. Animals and plants do not have access to excessive energy available in the form of supermarkets, shops, refrigerator storage and so on, that can be readily accessed. So when they expend energy, they are careful it is not a leakage. It is calculated and appropriate. At least that is the clear intention they hold each time. And when an organism hasn’t figured out how to respond in an energy-efficient manner, its other response is to conserve energy for when conditions are favorable and appropriate.
Like the Deciduous Trees, that shed their leaves during winter, therefore giving up on producing food, and instead conserve their energy to leaf, flower and fruit when conditions in the environment are conducive again.
If our intention is to create appropriate responses like the way nature does when any disturbance shows up, if our intention is to touch souls, if our intention is to feel the being part of a human being that we all share in common, then like Mother Teresa points out so clearly and beautifully, we need to bring that silence into our lives. And from there, we can actively listen to the presence of everything, as from such a space, the right response will make itself known to us individually, and collectively as a society, system, community, organization, both locally and globally.
I therefore invite you to create your silence. As I said earlier, this is the foundational piece. We need to hold this space as long as it takes to listen. Please let us not rush through this. And when you feel it, make sure you are listening with your whole being. Without any noise clouding it. Let your cells feel that alert stillness. For then, what the presence brings forth, is where we will be called to walk.
How can we invite this silence and listening into our lives?
I wish to share a few pointers that are helping me, which you can open and expand in a way that works for you:
- Identify: Identify what you wish to go into silence with. Is it a personal fear or stress that you are facing, or a collective one, at the level of business, organization, system, community, that you are holding through some challenge? It is generally a symptom you will go into silence with.
- Tune out noise: Reduce, or gently step back, from as many forms of stimuli as possible, that feeds your fear/stress. Slowly tune out the noise.
- Create time for solitude: The process begins when we can sit in silence with ourselves.
- Take it all into nature: I take myself, my fears, questions, and sit with nature. Ask-pay attention-listen. In putting it out there, I am led into my within ever so calmly.
- Move to your inner truth: Remember that our inner voice lies behind the stream of endless thoughts that go on like a loop in our minds without a beginning or an end. Observe and journal. Or talk through them with someone you trust to hold space for you. Bring it out. When they clear, the actual tiger can be sensed/spotted.
- Know when we aren’t listening: Each time we catch ourselves judging, defending, in a rush to respond, get busy framing what to say, to ourselves or the other, we are not listening. We then bring ourselves back to silence, to that sacred space, and start to listen again.
If we can practice this deep stillness and listening, slowly our bodies, our communities, our businesses, our systems, will know how to respond appropriately, and when to conserve and wait for the right conditions, individually, collectively, or both.
As always, please do share your thoughts.
When you do so, I am able to see, listen and walk together.
Celebrates & Connects all Life as:
Writer | Custodian of Circles | Biomimicry Professional
If you have missed reading the first part in this series, I invite you to do so by going to this link:
Part 1 – Seeing & Acknowledging