This morning I had the pleasure of singing a song that cuts through so very much noise, which is a funny thing to say, that a song cut through the noise. The first line of the song is “Listen more often to things than to beings…” The song goes on to describe that the people we love who pass on are never really gone. They live on in the world all around us. And if we listen, we can hear them. My musical partner and I sang it for our church service.
Later in the service, a brilliant woman was discussing how her beliefs have developed and changed over the years. She described a moment in her childhood where she put her ear to the ground so she could hear the song of the earth. For her, this simply meant that there is a song in the earth, and that if you listen, you can hear it. I’m listening.
The theme of the day wasn’t about listening, and yet for me, it clearly was. And I heard it. I thought about what I do and don’t listen to, a notion I’ve been toying with for a little while. It is oh so easy to hear the loudest noises, to hear the spoken words, to hear the first reaction and move on. After all, there are so many noises to attend to.
As I began really considering this a while back, I decided to try an experiment. The background: my daughter and I bump heads from time to time. She is VERY good at expressing her feelings. I excel at being annoyed by both the feeling and its combative expression. I wondered a few months ago if maybe there was something she wasn’t saying, if I was hearing the wrong thing, if I was failing to listen to the most important part of her message. I heard: “He always gets to do what he wants and I never do.” I uncharitably interpreted: “I’m going to make a stink until I get my way.” I confess when I think I’m hearing that, my responses tend not to be terribly measured or comforting. But when I went back to my daughter later, when we had both cooled off, and asked what she meant, she said: “Sometimes it just seems like you like him better.” I’m listening. “Do you really think I like him better?” “No, Mommy, but sometimes I feel that way.” I’m listening. And now I’m holding her and telling her how amazing she is and apologizing for making her think anything different. I listened deeply and then we could actually fix the hurt. Oddly we didn’t bump heads again for a while.
I’ve also been thinking about how well I listen during those internal conversations. I am so prone to reacting to my surface level responses and reactions to things, that I stop listening to what’s really going on inside, and those insidious thoughts and hurts just sit there, without the balm that could be so easily applied. An example, I’m getting ready to go sing and I have the thought: “I don’t really want to do this.” This is not an unusual thought for me to have before performing. It is absolutely no reflection of how much I enjoy performing, and I know this. My husband also knows this, so we’ve both learned to just sort of nudge me out the door so I can go do it anyway. But what I don’t do, even though I’m nudging myself to do what I know I should/deeply want to do, is to LISTEN. What is the thought/feeling that “I don’t really want to do this” the shorthand for? What’s really going on? How about: “I’m scared it won’t go well;” or “I’m afraid nobody will show up;” or “What if none of us have a good time?” These are the next layer down. There are layers below them, to be sure, but there is no getting there without recognizing that top layer drivel for what it is: emotional shorthand with a little sidecar of avoidance. If I LISTEN to myself more deeply, I can address those fears, shore up my insecurities, create some distance from my story about not being good enough, apply that balm and then not just get to the gig, but play it wholeheartedly.
“Listen more often to things than to beings…”
How about just “Listen more often…” If we just leave it at that, it covers the whole gamut. Listen more often to the deeper layers under the well rehearsed arguments. Listen more often to the hurt and fear below the apathy or disaffection. Listen more often to the whispers of your soul and the love that surrounds you. Listen.
Sometimes doing this kind of listening takes some practice. Often that practice starts with quiet. If finding quiet is a struggle for you, or if you’d like some help listening to the whispers of your soul, I’d love to help you find your soul ears. Get in touch so we can listen together.