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To Listen and To Be


“I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear. And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen.” – Terry Tempest Williams

This week I turned in the final pages for my new book. One whole segment is on the power To Keep Silence. In it, I reveal how I’ve spent a lifetime struggling against listening, and then – realizing it was the best teacher I was ever going to have – learning how to listen better, more deeply, and more clearly. Thus revealed, I get to listen to the parts of myself that feel uncomfortable with that. I get to open again to spaciousness and connection, brought on by practice. Discomfort only lasts if I court it. I’ve trained myself to gravitate toward other things:

This week, the persimmons are ripe and the birds are everywhere. Perfect timing.

I watch from my office window, occasionally venturing out, trying to get closer to the tree without disturbing: crows, large and black against the bare branches and bright orange globes, digging into the fruit, ripping open the flesh, eating. Then robins. Jays. Brown Towhee. They peck at the openings the crows have made. Next come the sparrows. Starlings. Finches. Phoebe. The surprising arrival of Cedar Waxwings, dandies among the rest. 

I listen. I watch. I breathe. I learn to be.

Inner listening is important, but so is tuning to what is around us. Both are vital to the examined life, because the examined life moves in the context of land, sky,  factories, noise, concrete, and the great silence of the stars. Terry Tempest Williams’ birds.

What reminds you to listen? What drops you toward silence? To what do you pray?

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