WRITERS know the importance of delay, reflection, meditation, and listening, without preconceptions or plans. We often find ourselves listening for what the day will reveal to us. Distant birdsong, castles made of clouds, chill winds, twinkles at the edge of an eye, sun on shoulders, childhood games, laughter, tears, rustle of grasses, ants marching through the grass forest, rust on poles, reflections in a pool, a sudden shaft of light ... all are part of the listening process - the expectancy that something good will come in a new illumination of thought. Often in society, we tend to live a linear life of time constraints, activity, and noise. We may assume it's natural and let the days slide by, filled with catching-up and running-down activities. We may forget what we value in the push and pull of busyness. Even bookstores are filled with ideas on how to be a 30-second manager, how to make the most of minutes, and how to file, talk on the phone, and cook dinner all at once. Perhaps it's time to step outside the norm, turn off the TV for a whole day, sit on the grass in the neighbor's full view and just listen.
But it takes bravery. Our neighbor may think we have gone ... well, off the deep end, if he or she sees us just lying in the grass considering the cloud formations for more than an hour. Children will come and watch; even domestic pets will sit on or near us as we wait and listen. It can be an ego-bruising activity at first. But it eventually gives us more dominion over time and contemplation.
Listening is different from thinking. Listening assumes that answers and questions and relationships exist and just need discovery. Listening requires a posture of active expectation. It's essentially translating the unheard into the heard and experienced.
What is the value in learning the skill of listening? It helps us to think more incisively and reason more soundly. It makes us pause before responding. It lets us hear our own voice bouncing off the walls of a new thought before we articulate it. Ionesco said, ``It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.'' Active listening gives us time to dig out the deep questions.
Our family likes to take time to go to the hills and look for rocks. We don't care what kind of rocks ... just eye-pleasing rocks that we can hold in our hands in the silence and look at. Sometimes when we go rock hunting, we don't look for rocks at all. Instead, we just sit and listen to the fullness of the quiet, as an antipode to focused busyness.
Listening is a time to let little half-open doors open onto secret landscapes and partially remembered feelings. It's being willing to go through the doors of thought to discover and bring out new ideas to cultivate in wider, more-seen gardens.
My husband has created a word that epitomizes the physical attitude of listening: ``iguanadizing.'' The word essentially means to assume the physical posture of an iguana sunning itself. (And, while we're lying out in the grass, we may feel some of the positive attributes of the noble iguana coming to the fore.)
But, we don't have to look like an iguana in the sun to listen. As we cultivate the listening attitude, we can even listen to the sweet strains of self being self, of world being world, of peace ... filtering through traffic jams or crowded shopping malls.
I advocate spending some time each day in simple listening. Perhaps the ideas that come our way will be worth translating to the world we're a part of.