As the busy edge dissolves we begin to join the conversation through the portal of a present unknowing, robust vulnerability, revealing in the way we listen, a different ear, a more perceptive eye, an imagination refusing to come too early to a conclusion, and belonging to a different person than the one who first entered the quiet. *
The nurse called from the heart failure clinic and asked if I’d made arrangements for the echocardiogram. I responded with some confusion. Was I supposed to make that appointment? I thought my doctor was arranging for that.
Yesterday a new young neighbor told me he would like to help remodel the kitchen. He talked and talked and talked. I could hardly get a word in edgeways. Later I thought “no way is he the one to work with me; he doesn’t listen.”
I’ve always thought I was a “good listener.” But I’m not so sure now. Am I so self-involved right now that I’m the one not listening?
What is going on with my heart? Angeles Arrien’s writes and talks about the 4 chambered heart: “Many native cultures believe that the heart is the bridge between Father Sky and Mother Earth. For these traditions, the ‘four-chambered heart,’ the source for sustaining emotional and spiritual health, is described as being full, open, clear, and strong. She asks:
Where am I half-hearted rather than full-hearted? Closed-hearted rather than open-hearted? Weak-hearted rather than strong-hearted? Confused or doubting in my heart rather than clear-hearted? A healthy heart weans itself from half-hearted, weak-hearted, closed-hearted and confused-hearted ways.
Solomon hadn’t been king for very long when God appeared to him in a dream. “Ask what I should give you,” God said (1 Kings 3:5). Various Bible versions translate what Solomon requested as wisdom or an understanding mind or heart. But the actual translation of the Hebrew says Solomon asked for a “hearing heart,” lev shomia, so he could discern rightly.
In his essay Education of the Heart, Thomas Taaffe, writes, “An educated heart would be educated in the practice of self-knowledge. …about affections, and the ways of interaction; an educated heart, as the place in ourselves and in others where we must especially allow hearing room, would respect transcendence at the horizon of our own self-meaning” (pg. 5 http://www.crosscurrents.org/taaffe.htm).
It’s time for me to pay attention to how I’m listening.
*SILENCE taken from the upcoming reader’s circle essay series. ©2013: David Whyte.