Theme for December 2014 ~ Tuning Fork Listening
In the past, I’ve blogged about something that could be termed Empty-Presence (when one becomes an empty vessel without the barrier of our ordinary, pedestrian concerns, the daily residue of our preoccupations and other mental constructs that too often interfere with, even taint, our capacity to simply be present with another).
We’ve also experimented with a ‘listening-towards-becoming-more-fluent/natural’ technique gleaned from a ‘street giraffe’ type class that I took with the NYC Center for Collaborative Communication’s Dian Killian — see: Colloquial NVC: Idioms, Imagery, Metaphors — who has spoken about listening to another “with our entire body (every cell), our entire being.” (Perhaps a similar mustering up of intense focus that some of us aesthetically-inclined bring to bear while listening to Shakespeare or poetry, hanging on every word and what it portends. Or when enthralled by a concert or symphony. That full bodied sense of being enraptured, open. In another [non-NVC] venue, this capacity was once described as ‘empty presence’ — a term I’ve since borrowed — which seems evocative of the kind of harmonic resonance in play, as with a musician’s tuning fork, in deeply listening for another’s humanity.)
Dian Killian’s harmonizing process, towards engaging with others such that we’re completely present and receptive, first requires an unobstructed purity and stillness of mind (when the more habitual sedimentary impurities of our own thoughts have settled down to the bottom, such that we have clarity to see another — ‘through a glass lightly’ so-to-speak). We can strive towards this by initially attuning more mindfully to another’s spoken words, rather than one’s own internal reactionary monologue, and witnessing the visceral sensations evoked by what is being shared. And then, only after coming from the state of empty presence, do we shift towards ‘silent empathy’ (i.e. searching within for the key ‘empathic inquiry’ terms within, such as guessing feelings/needs — see also: HH_Empathic_Listening). Lastly, we shift yet again when we move from silent empathy towards finding a way to verbalize our interior process externally, such that it might attune with another’s own experience (this can also give rise, more improvisational, to metaphors and imagery that forge a bridge of mutual understanding). This three step process: 1) empty presence; 2) silent empathy; & 3) empathic inquiry (this third/last step could be guided by either the Three Layers of Empathy or alternatively the Imago Dialogue three step process of mirroring/validating/empathizing — all the while intuitively drawing on our well of Colloquial NVC utilizing Idioms, Imagery, Metaphors). We’ll explore this three step process, as listening connoisseurs, with some fellow street giraffes. The experience can be one of the words arising more organically, effortlessly – perhaps coming from a more capacious presence or consciousness? Perhaps more [mercy] ‘street’ as we strive towards keeping our ear to the ground and awakening…
Or, as Peter Gabriel once whispered:
Here’s a book passage, along these lines, that I find inspirational…
From the author, Piero Ferrucci, who begins his chapter on empathy, in a book titled:
with this instrumental analogy:
“Although I am not a musician, I once had the opportunity to hold in my hands an exquisitely made violin dating to the eighteenth century. What amazed me, even more than its harmonious lines or the beautiful grain of its wood, was that, holding it, I could feel it vibrate. It was not an inert object. It resonated with the various sounds that happened to resonate around it: another violin, a tram passing in the street, a human voice. If you hold an ordinary, factory-made violin, that just doesn’t happen. There can be hundreds of sounds around it and the violin remains numb. In order to obtain that fine sensitivity and extraordinary resonance of the old violin, the makers had to had an exceptional knowledge of wood and its seasoning; they were supported by the artisan tradition of generations, and they were endowed with the talent of cutting the wood and furnishing the instrument. This marvelous responsiveness is an active virtue. It is the capacity of the violin to enter into resonance, and it goes hand in hand with its capacity to create sound of extraordinary quality — music with a soul, able to move and to inspire. We human are, or at least can be, like that violin.”
60 Minutes Piece, in its entirety: The City of Music – CBS News
Perhaps music is a kind of Language of the birds prior to humanity’s Tower of Babel:
An Excerpt from Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred by Mark Nepo Mark Nepo explores the art and the spiritual practice of listening. Here is an excerpt and a poem on listening. “Recently, I was in Sausalito, having breakfast in the valley, looking at the sculpted hills against the morning sky. As happens, things begin to speak. This is what I heard: On the Ridge “We can grow by simply lis- tening, the way the tree on that ridge listens its branches to the sky, the way blood listens its flow to the site of a wound, the way you listen like a basin when my head so full of grief can’t look you in the eye. We can listen our way out of howling, the way the heart can soften the wolf we keep inside. We can last by listen- ing deeply, the way roots listen for the next inch of earth, the way the old turtle listens all he hears into the pattern of his shell. “That morning, my understanding of listening expanded and I was reshaped yet again. It sounds simple and obvious but it takes time to listen; time for the deeper things to show themselves. Just as we can’t see all the phases of the moon on any one night, we can’t hear the phases of truth or the heart unless we listen for how the truth of feeling grows full and dark and full again over time. Patience, the art of waiting, is the heart-skill that opens the world; the way opening our eyes is necessary in order to see. “Deep listening also takes time because things get in the way that we must allow to pass. When we outwait the clouds, we can feel the sun and see the water bead on the hosta. When we outwait the clouds, the birds in our heart come out and the webs in our mind become visible. “That morning in Sausalito, I learned that listening this deeply is an act of creation that shapes us beyond our will. I’ve always been taught that first you listen, then you act. This of course gives time for compassion to rise in the heart. But I’m also discovering after all these years that listening deeply over time is one uninterrupted growing — one continuous act. In this way, the tree on that ridge bending to the wind till it grows to the bend is how it listens over time. And in the act of receiving our darkest cries, the heart begins to soften the howl of our wound. The old turtle is mastered by time, until moving at the pace of being is how it listens. Loving you over time, I take you in, until watching you sleep in the hammock is enough to break my heart into blossom.”
FYI ~ December’s Muse:
Handel’s Messiah ~ Chorus “He Shall Purify”
This weekend, I attended the symphony and was reminded of the notion of ’empty presence’ during a performance of Handel’s Messiah (perhaps especially with the purifying chorus, listen above).
It’s a piece of music that I’ve been moved by for quite some time, likely thanks to the artistic genius and choreographic prowess of Robert Weiss, whose ballet version of Handel’s “Messiah” I’ve had the chance to enjoy — although unfortunately not the talent sing in, as with the diva’s video clip beneath — on more than one occasion:
Indeed during a 2004 performance of Handel’s Messiah, I even offered my favorite book, E. Luminata, to Mr. Weiss (who happened to be seated nearby in the audience); pointing out, at the time, that it had been translated by a dear, former professor of mine who happened to have the surname Christ.
Then much to my surprise and delight, during the season of 2005-2006, I witnessed an ‘illuminative’ balletic creation by this very same artistic director which seemed to have (at least plausibly?) drawn in its inspiration from mine gift-o’-text — noting, too, that the official blurb about the ballet said that it was “[i]n the tradition of his glorious Messiah, Robert Weiss creates an all new evening dedicated to uplifting the soul through spiritual dance and music.”
As a newspaper review titled “Ballet’s ‘Journey’ arrives just in time” put it:
“The delicious colors in Jeff A.R. Jones’ costumes and Ross Kolman’s lighting design rival the clearest skies, starriest nights and most fiery sunsets.”
While another admirer offered:
“The ballet’s essence is deeply ethical. It is a celebration of human dignity, human generosity, freedom of thought, and tolerance, both religious and political.” Marija Jankovic, Budapest, Hungary
FYI ~ A longer piece on the ballet, if interested: Take This Journey!
(Perhaps this all shouldn’t have been such a surprise, as: “Ricky [a.k.a. ballet director Robert Weiss] is a philosopher poet.” ~ Composer J. Mark Scearce)
Messiah – A Sacred Oratorio, Handel – conducted by Sir Colin Davis
The Messiah: Handel’s gift to the poor of London
One of the world’s greatest choral works has its roots in the composer’s compassion for the shamed and destitute
- — The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1
Homily of Pope Francis (begins at 43 minute mark):
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Is 9:1).
Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life
Cardinal Walter Kasper
Translated by William Madges
Excerpt: “In this book, Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life, Cardinal Kasper explores in depth the meaning of mercy and the role it must play in the life of the church and the world. He calls for rethinking the Christian understanding of God. Rather than understanding God primarily in metaphysical terms (Being Itself; all-knowing, all-powerful, etc.), as has been the case for most of the history of the church, Cardinal Kasper, drawing upon deep biblical roots, identifies mercy as God’s fundamental and defining attribute. He then describes the consequences for the praxis of the church and for the life of individual Christians entailed by this theological reorientation.”