Sounds of Life

I’m curious about the sounds of life. We live in such an active world with so much noise and I wonder how often we give ourselves a chance to stand still and listen.

Listen and really hear.

Try it for a minute. I promise it will be worth it.

Close your eyes and release the visible world and slow your breathing so you can deeply listen to the sounds that surround you. How many can you name?

Are you surprised by the variety? Are there sounds you can’t identify?

Certainly, it matters where you are when you try this. We exist in so many different places, big cities, small towns, deserts, rain forests, seashores, all teaming with sounds.

A time long ago hearing and identifying sounds meant life or death. If you were being stalked by a hungry animal, you’d better have good hearing, if you wanted to survive.

In some places, this is as important now as it was long ago, even though the reasons may have changed.

Every so often I will stop what I am doing and try to still my mind. I’ll close my eyes and take in all the sounds I can. Sometimes there are too many for me to separate and I have to open my eyes back up to be able to name them.

I wonder about the sound words make. Folks might say the exact same word, but their inflection, tone, volume, and pronunciation are so different, that it seems it is not the same word at all.

I wonder, is it possible to know every word from every language on earth? How many words are there and why do they all exist? Is there such a variety because they all sound different?

Is it possible to know every sound that we humans are capable of making? And what of our fellow travelers on this earth and the sounds they make? All the creatures on land, in the water and above us in the sky?

What a catalogue that would be to record every sound.

And what of other entities, the trees, rocks, plants, and flowers? Do they have their own sounds and their own language?

I wonder, has every sound already been made or are new sounds created all the time? Is there a sound that was once made, but hasn’t happened in a long time, because what created it is no longer here? I wonder too will there be new sounds in the future?

What is this fascination of mine with sound and what might it have to do with you?

Here’s an idea to try.

Sounds create meaning and they give life depth and dimension.

I love so many sounds. The voices of those that touch my life, the honking of geese as they travel south for winter, the rush of the wind through the green pines, the ding of the food timer because I know something tasty is only a moment away, the infinite variety of music, hearing the heartbeat of a yet unborn child, the roaring of water cascading over a fall, the plaintive sigh of a train whistle, the beauty of laughter.

There are so many more.

My personal favorite though is the sound of my wife’s voice saying, “I love you”. And I have to admit, I love the sound of hearing her adorable wolf howl, when we’re outdoors staring at the full moon.

I encourage you to stop for a moment sometime today and open yourself to the world of sound. It is such a precious gift.

Listening

I took the picture in the banner above last summer when part of my family was vacationing in the Adirondacks in New York State. The brook was at the back of the property and was a slice of heaven for me. I am most at home in the water and was able to lay, almost completely submerged, feeling the rush of energy from the water as it passed over my body. Pure bliss.

One of my favorite past-times is to create ‘rock people’. I’m sure it’s some kind of throwback to a former life where the formations guided my way when I traveled long distances.

I love being able to find rocks of all sizes and shapes and see how they fit together. It’s very tricky business to be able to balance them and every so often, they tumble and I have to start over. That’s okay with me. Maybe it’s just the rocks way of being part of the process, so I get it just right.

I like this photo because it suggests that one of the rock people is talking to the rest of the crowd. I’m not sure what a rock person would say to other rocks, but the scene intrigues me.

I started thinking about ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’ and how different the two concepts can be.

According to one on-line dictionary, hearing is the ‘faculty of perceiving sounds’, while listening is either, ‘giving one’s attention to a sound’ or ‘paying attention to what another is saying’.

I began wondering which I do more often. When someone is speaking, whether near me or to me, am I hearing them or listening to them? I am conscious of there being sound, recognizing cadence, tone and volume, but am I truly hearing

them?

I ask myself what kind of a listener am I? Am I an active participant or is my role more passive? No doubt I vacillate, depending on the speaker, the subject or the circumstances.

I also wonder, when I am listening, what is the quality of my attention? Am I evaluating what is being said or perhaps, judging the content? Am I listening, but also preparing for my response, so that my attention is split?

One further question jumps in, what part of me is doing the actual listening? Is it my head or my heart?

These are a lot of questions. I think they are worth considering.

You see, I am also a speaker of words, trying to convey thoughts and ideas and feelings. I want to be heard. Not just the sounds that come from me, but the essence that is me. Maybe you want that too.

It feels to me that true listening is a gift, one that is beyond measure. To have someone paying careful attention to what you are saying and also to what you are feeling. To have someone listening from their heart, what a joy-filled present to offer another.

So, how does one offer this? To me, that becomes the rich, fertile question.

I don’t know if it is humanly possible to be a good solid listener all of the time. We have so much going on inside ourselves that it makes it very difficult to be an open channel. That’s not meant as an excuse, but rather an observation.

I believe being an active, compassionate, deep listener comes from the place inside us that knows love. There is a connection between us and the speaker. Our heart takes over and our breath slows a bit and our mind stills. We let go of our need to be right and our desire to fix anything. We become sponges, absorbing the words, thoughts and feelings of another human being who is trying their best to navigate this wonderfully incredible world of ours. We open to their need to be heard. We recognize that we are a part of a sacred exchange.

What a treasure to experience the divine in the hearing of sound.

And what a beautiful thing it is to give the gift of listening to another.

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