What is life telling you?
Are you even listening?
Have you ever noticed how often we find ourselves scrambling madly about, “looking” for answers to life’s biggest questions. We’re shouting at the wind, often loudly, all 7 billion of us. A confused and befuddled lot we are, creating a cacophonous roar of humanity, all screaming, “What am I supposed to do?!”
I hike in nature nearly every day. I see animals making decisions, encountering obstacles, dealing with predators, building nests and seeking out the nourishment they need to face another day. And while the occasional noisy uproar takes place, for the most part they‘re not a screaming bunch. If anything, they’re a pleasant, musical bunch, happily going about their business with tweets and chirps. They’re not generally freaking out or creating any sort of inharmonious hullabaloo.
How do they do it?
Why are these wild animals, out in the dangerous “wild” so generally at peace? What do these cute little critters know that we don’t?
They listen to the whispers of life. They’re quiet enough to hear them. These seemingly meek and simple creatures exist in a very natural state, uncluttered by the demands, the noise, the chaos of our modern human lives. They know when to shut up, be still, and tune in.
They do far more listening than chattering.
Even the much-maligned squirrel, the notorious “spaz” of the forest, actually spends a great deal of time just being still. Just, well, being. They spend hours lounging lazily on comfy bark-covered branches. And when they need information to help them make a decision, they don’t run around chirping and squeaking and chattering madly. They stop, hang from a tree, and just listen.
Human critters don’t spend enough time listening. The squirrel only chatters when it has to. When it’s figuring something out (including what the heck that clicking sound is coming from my camera), it is quiet. It tunes in. It listens and absorbs information instead of shouting at the wind that it doesn’t know what to do. I think we humans need to learn a little critter wisdom!
Today I got fabulous practice in the art of listening and lending an ear.
Ironically, in the middle of writing this, I spent two hours conversing with a dear friend in the throes of a mammoth life upheaval. Oh, boy, out came my human instinct to talk! But instead I listened. I stared at the draft of this post as we talked and made sure I really listened. And then she listened. I listened because she needed someone to hear her news, and she listened because there was information I had that she needed. In the stillness of the space we created, information could get through and understanding could be born. In that space we could hear answers, whispered softly across the ocean from one friend to the other. That’s how good communication works.
The answers are there for us, just as the animals know. Sometimes all we need is to quiet our minds and discover that the answers, really, are within us. We know what to do, if we just listen to ourselves, and listen for the cues the world offers to us. Stop shouting “What’s the answer?!” long enough to hear the reply.
Animals know that whatever information they seek is probably right in front of them. We humans may think we have the smartest brains, but wisdom lives in all kinds of beings. Pride won’t get in the way of me seeing that I could learn something from a stellar’s jay. Arrogance won’t blind me to the sage-like ways of the raven who stands confidently on the cliff’s edge, waiting, listening. Humility moves in and tells me I’m the student of life, here.
I’ll gladly walk in the paws of the wise squirrel who hangs in the stillness, the attentive bunny who cocks her little head to hear more clearly, and in the feet of the astute chickadee who holds on tight and listens to life’s sweet whispers.