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Some first experiments with listening, beyond the ears

I hear a whistle and whoosh from outside. Now a rush and a rumble. I see the pot plants bouncing about, the branches of the fir tree are swaying and the pre-spring bare branches of the chestnut tree dancing stiffly, but are standing firm.

What’s happening? It’s obvious to me. I’m here. It’s now and I use all of me, beyond my ears.

Tucked away somewhere is your own memory of whistle, whoosh, rush and rumble and so my words may touch you. Maybe one day you heard, saw, smelled and maybe also tasted and touched a windy day, as I did when I drafted these words.

As I hear these sounds, I am thinking about listening, beyond my ears. I first heard this phrase from my friend and collaborator Raquel Ark of Listening Alchemy and I’m starting to listen using all of me by doing some simple experiments.

Earlier this week I listened five times each for five minutes, in my home, in a café, in a handbag section of a department store, by a cash machine and in my little garden. Then a few days later I listened on the bus, on the platform, walking in the rush hour, at a Spanish French language MeetUp, by the Thames, Each time I recorded the sounds making some 50 minutes in all. Each time as I listened, I noticed what was happening in me - like it being difficult for me to be still, to concentrate.

My next experiment was to listen to someone whom I knew only well enough to know she held different views from mine. Two decades my senior, I had mailed and asked if she would be wiling to tell me her thoughts about Brexit, climate change and such like. She called me the very next morning and I listened for nearly an hour acknowledging but not interrupting. As I listened, I noticed what was provoked in me, well beyond my ears. I suppressed the urge to react, to argue my point, to protest.

In her TED talk virtuoso drummer Evelyn Glennie (Teach the world to listen) speaks of our bodies as a ‘resonating chamber’. We each have our own ‘sound colours’ by which we endow the vibrations which reach the eardrums and our whole bodies with our own unique meaning. Profoundly deaf from the age of 12, she is well placed to be one of my listening teachers.

So now, in my 7th decade, I start afresh with listening more deeply to the human and natural sounds around me. These are but first experiments. There will be more.

I would gladly send you my recordings so you could hear what I heard. But I suggest you would have a richer experience by switching on all your senses, turning on the recorder and living your own listening experience. I wish you well.

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Posted on 08-03-2019 at 13:47

To listen is to hear, with attention.

With this blog I invite you to listen with me - to life wherever it may be found: within self, society, our natural environment. My intention is to nourish the life in and all around me and, if you so choose, in and around you too. [More...]

‘Listen for life’ means listening to life (as in ‘is there a pulse?’), listening for all of life (for whatever time we have left), listening to enhance life (so we live more fully).

Our ears are our primary, but not only, organ for hearing. By choosing to attune our brains, we practice listening, and will hear more. And as we hear more we will think, and act, powerfully from that place.

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