Listening in the Extreme
Times are tough and I think they are going to stay that way for the rest of my life. That's my working assumption anyway.
Brutal mosque murders torment me from the other side of the world. Brexit rantings pour in uninvited. At my local shops and in the crowded streets of London, I know I am protected from brutal attack only by statistical improbability.
So what can I do now, to survive and thrive, who knows, for the next 20 or 30 years?
For inspiration, I look to others whose have lived in the extreme. They have heard gun fire, known persecution, lived through wars - and nevertheless have chosen to listen for life.
Surrounded by a dystopia of destruction, Aehan Ahmad played his piano. It nourished him. He chose to listen for the life in the music, in himself, and to nourish those who dared to join him on the streets of Yarmouk, Syria. Those who were painfully provoked by the music of life, threatened to cut his fingers off. He now plays concerts to thank Germany who accepted him as a refugee. 'The piano is my homeland now'
Persecuted in Vietnam for his antiwar activism Thich Nhat Hanh was exiled in 1966. He knows suffering. 18 years later he founded a network of monasteries and retreat centres, with a home base in Plum Village, France. (Each of my visits have been deeply enriching. If you think of going, ask me). He is considered to be the father of ‘engaged Buddhism’, a movement linking mindfulness practice with social action.
As a practical way of surviving and thriving he proposes five 'trainings’ one of which is 'mindful consumption', a practice which helps us not to bring toxins and poisons into our body or mind. By the nature of the ‘nutriments’ we choose to take in and allow to grow within ourselves, we enhance or suppress life. More than food, ‘nutriments’ include all we absorb and digest through our senses - what we see on screen, the conversations we have, the sounds we choose to hear and more.
‘I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past … [and] I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption.'
These are but two of the many who have suffered greatly and who show us a way to survive and thrive in our times of disruption. Ignoring is not a way for me, nor is allowing myself to be poisoned by daily absorption of toxin. So I choose to listen (to hear with intention) to all which I find life enriching and to act accordingly.
As I do so I have no pretensions to be able to change the world, but do actively intend to change a world, that part which I can influence. As I do so I hold on to the belief that one day that will happen. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that in Alabama little black boys and girls will play and hold hands with little white boys and girls as sisters and brothers (my paraphrase). That is happening today.
Listen for life, hold the belief. Change a world.
Posted on 25-03-2019 at 12:29