Saturday, January 12, 2019

Imploring Heaven For The Gift Of Listening

"I like to listen.  I have learned a great deal from listening.
Most people never listen."

~ Ernest Hemingway

In my post I wrote earlier this week, I discussed a passage I had read in Sarah Ban Breathnach's, Romancing The Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendor. In it, Sarah suggests that there are two aspects for each of our senses, and in my previous post I discussed the difference between looking and seeing.

I actually began reading another book last night, Sacred Space: Turning Your Home Into A Sanctuary by Jill Angelo, and once again the subject of importance of seeing came up. In this book, the author discusses the focal point of the rooms in your home, the first place your eyes are naturally drawn to, and why that is important. I'm actually going to go back and re-read that chapter because my brain was in a little bit of a fog from this awful head cold I've had for going on three weeks now. But I found it interesting how the same subject has come up twice in two days. That typically means the Holy Spirit is trying to get my attention, so I'll be sure to share more about that here another time!

But moving back to Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendor.  In today's reading, Sarah focused on to the essence of sound, and the difference between simply hearing and truly listening. She writes; "Just as with looking, hearing is a navigational tool, an interior sonar device enabling your brain to distinguish between the soft purring of a cat and the shrill shriek of the alarm clock. However, listening is Spirit's (God's, emphasis mine), accomplice in the romantic seduction of our souls. When Shakespeare asked to have his sense of hearing made passionate, he was imploring heaven for the gift of being able to "listen". She encourages that "each day offers us an invisible path to pleasure laid out in notes, measures, tempo and tones", and instructs that there are three ways in which we listen, perceptive listening, emotional listening and sensuous listening.

Perceptive listening is when we deliberately move from hearing to listening. This is when we consciously and intentionally shut out other distractions to focus our complete attention on something. Can I just say that I believe perceptive listening has taken a huge hit in the past several years? I believe that now more than ever we have things vying for our attention and that keep us from truly hearing each other.

I know that for my husband, having my phone out on the table and even occasionally looking over at it communicates to him that I am not fully engaged with him. And by that I don't mean on a day to day, moment by moment basis. There are plenty of times that we are together and both busy with our devices.  But if we are out on a date, or some times when we are traveling, he likes to know that I am fully engaged in the conversation and that he has my full attention.

That was hard for me when we first got back together, because for two years my almost constant companion was my teenage daughter who was glued to her phone.  She thought nothing of having our phones out when we were enjoying time together. There were times when we made it a point not to, and if she really needed my full attention she was good at communicating that. So I guess because of that I got a little lax and too attached to my phone, which I seriously despise admitting. At any rate, I think we all can agree that technology has not fostered the art of perceptive listening.

Then there is emotional listening, when we suddenly hear a sound that transports us to another dimension of time and space. For a lot of people, such memories are found in music. I have a lot of fond memories of songs from my childhood. I had one of those little kiddie record players when I was young, and music has been a huge part of my life from a very early age. Along with the kiddie record players, I had plenty of the little kiddie records that came with a story book. I used to love to listen to them! One of my earliest memories is a song called Katie the Kangaroo, which I actually found a few years ago on You Tube! From the moment I hear the first chords of the introduction it immediately sweeps me back to my little bedroom, in a little house in Texas when I was probably four or five years old. I'm not even sure that children these days would be delighted by such a song, but when I was a little girl, my little records and record player brought me hours of enjoyment.  And did you know that there are websites where you can listen to a number of these gems for free? Kiddie Records Weekly is my favorite. But you can find others at Children's Records: Old Vinyl For Children Of All Ages, which is a blog dedicated to kiddie records, and you can also learn a lot about the history at Kiddie Record King, although this site appears to only sell audio files now.

Another sound that always takes me back is the sound of a lawn mower in the spring and summer.  My dad loved working in the yard, which you have to do early in Texas to avoid the torrential heat! I have many memories of waking to the sound of him puttering away in the yard, and the smell of fresh cut grass evokes the same memories.

And finally, there is what Sarah refers to as, sensuous listening, which is listening with our senses.  You might tap your feet to a favorite tune, or love the sound of a gentle rain that lulls you to sleep.  I think Christmas, especially, does this for me. I was just thinking the other day that it's sad that the rest of the year doesn't have music that is specifically devoted to it. I mean, there is Auld Lang Syne for New Year's, and I'm sure you could pick out almost any romantic song and call it Valentine's.  Even Easter has a few, but there is nothing like Christmas music to set a mood and speak to my senses.

The English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge believed that "no sound is dissonant which tells of life."  It's so easy to allow what Sarah refers to as "life's major and minor chords of contentment" to be drowned out by all the noise. I want to follow Shakespeare's example and "implore heaven for the gift of listening." As before, I've made up a little worksheet, should you care to download it, to help us reflect upon some of our most memorable and favorite sounds, as well as determine whether we are good listeners.  Just follow the link below!

I hope that you are enjoying this series.  I know that it has personally been good for me to be reminded to be more intentional in seeing the beauty that surrounds me and at giving those I love my full attention!  Next up is the essence of scent, which is a big thing in my life!  I have a very heightened sense of smell, so I'm sensitive to things of that nature!  So be sure to come back and join me, won't you?

Until then,

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p.s. The link to Sacred Space, is the Kindle edition, which is only $4.99,
but if you want a paperback or hardcover copy, you might search or wait for a better price. :)

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