The Gift of Listening


There is power in having some space.

At the end of the day, that time of simply being outside, in the sun of midsummer, taking in the moment, the quiet, there is space. Space for thoughts, for sorting out the events, the emotions, the experiences of the day, and giving all of that jumble time to breathe. All of that becomes sorted out, thought through, and given some rest.

In being with a friend, hearing their story, giving them the space in this thing we call time, to be given the opportunity to find their voice, to share their words, to show what is on their heart, and in their mind, is a precious gift. By being ears for them, they are free to give expression, to not be judged, to not be lost in the cacophony of chatter.

That is a precious gift, a gift we seldom give, and we seldom receive in our world of endless tasks, deadlines, meetings, agendas, and projects. How often do we simply “be”, and allow the sense of completion, of satisfaction, resolution of a task to simply fill our souls? How often do we listen to that sweet silence of realizing that we have completed something, that a task has ended, an experience has been completed, and be simply in a state of recognition of that event?

And, that gift of listening, of space, is often best given to myself.

After a long and arduous meeting, on a beautiful summer’s day, I found myself in a quiet park by a bay, alone at a table. I’d brought a simple supper and my guitar, and took off my shirt to enjoy the feel of warm sun on my skin, and the bit of a breeze coming off of the ocean, rustling the pine trees and the wild flowers. There was a bit of salt in the air, and that warm, mellow summer smell of dry grass and sun warmed dirt.

The jumble of all of the discussions, the planning, the decision-making, the politics of the group still bounced around in my head. Trying to make sense of all of that, and what I was going to do with the day’s experience, filled my brain.

Then, in the peace of that moment, and that quiet space, the ideas, the emotions began to fall into place, to be put in order, and, finally, to be given perspective. The cold beer, the cheese, the crackers, and the breeze on my skin brought me back to earth, back to the moment of this beautiful day.

Slowly, I began to be aware of the bank of fog just offshore, the nearly full moon peaking over the mountain ridge, the group of hikers starting out on a trail, simply ready for adventure. I could taste the age of the sharp cheese, feel the crunch of cracker in my mouth, and savor of bitterness of the hops of the beer. My fingers became eager for the feel of guitar strings on calloused fingertips, repeating patterns and the joy of learning something new, by feel, by intuition.

The noisy chaos of the day’s work faded now, my soul pushing it away, restoring my sense of perspective, my sense of what is really sacred about the day.

In that simplicity, I picked up my guitar, tuning the strings, bringing order to the guitar, to my experience, to the moment. Soon, old, familiar chord patterns and strums, making melodies, making songs, filled my ears. The conflicts from the meeting, the politics and the pushing and pulling of the meetings all fell away. My ears, released from all of that, now were able to hear the sound of pine branches and grass in the breeze, the distant call of birds, the slow movement of the tide across the mudflats, the thud of a paddle against the hull of a kayak, and the vibrations of the guitar strings.

Wristwatch time faded away, only the movement of sunlight across the table, and the guitar, and its dance with the tree branches above me were left. I became inside of the music, inside of the place, meeting up again with my soul, simply being present, quiet, at ease.

And, space opened up, space for me to simply “be”, to breathe, to experience this life in all its glory.

Driving home, I felt alive, complete, re-oriented with the sacred, the holy. All of the noise of the meeting had been left on that picnic table by the bay, alone with itself, left to disappear with the setting sun.

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