Last week, on the day of the full moon I took a walk up Knocknarea. The mountain, beautifully situated behind my home in Sligo, is said to be the burial site of Queen Maeve, a legendary Irish warrior queen who had several husbands and was never one to run away from a battle. As I walked up to the cairn, it was a clear day with blue skies. Now, for any of you who live on or have experienced the west coast of Ireland, these blue sky days can be deceiving. As I climbed higher and higher, I was hit with a hail storm, rain and strong winds. There were sheep who stood under stones in shelter looking at me in what felt like disbelief and echoing what I was thinking in my head; “What the f*&% are you at?”, but I kept going, I was determined to be standing at the top at 1:26pm just as the moon hit its fullest here in Ireland.
Arriving at the top wasn’t peaceful and the views were somewhat marred by the incessant wind and rain but as I walked around the cairn, I found a quiet spot, a reprieve from the howling wind and I took a seat and breathed the air into my body. I felt a sense of stillness descend over me and the mountain. The rain and wind seemed to have stopped and I felt as though I could hear for the first time in a while.
“True listening is another way of bringing stillness into the relationship. When you truly listen to someone, the dimension of stillness arises and becomes an essential part of the relationship.”
There are things in life that can throw us off track, we can feel outside of ourselves and not really connected to our essence or put another way, our spirit. It is almost as though the heart of us sits outside who we are and we watch as everything happens around and to us, not fully connecting to how the goings-on make us feel. The last couple of weeks I have spent time in a hospital (visiting) and I have seen that this is never more so than when in an environment where there is sickness. People are drawn into their body with the pain they feel and yet on another level they are pulled back out of feeling with painkillers and other drugs. It is hard to watch and see it happen, especially to a loved one. And yet there is a time to stay and be with feeling and there is also a time where the support is needed; be it painkillers, a friendly nurse, a fellow patient passing by that says hello or a family member to sit and listen.
What I have been reminded of this week is that we as a society have to be better and more open to listening, to hearing and experiencing another person’s thoughts and stories. We may not agree with them but we at least must allow them to speak their truth and listen. One of my fellow Forrest Yogi’s, Erica, put up a post recently asking if we are wedded to our view point. Are we so ingrained in the systems we believe and work in, that we leave no space for other opinion’s, thoughts and beliefs and it really struck a cord. We have been raised in a way to follow in the footsteps of our family beliefs. Some of us choose to walk away from them and some of us continue in the same vein. We go to school and our beliefs and opinions are shaped by who we hang out with and who we admire. We move into the workforce and into relationships and again there are new ideas and ways of thinking and they in turn influence us. By being open to listening and allowing someone to share their story without having our own agenda of needing to get our story out can be hard. It also can be uncomfortable to hear someone’s story and we may not be able to listen as it can trigger emotions and memories within us that we resist dealing with.
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Stephen R. Covey
As I hiked up Knocknarea last week, Queen Maeve was expressing her viewpoint and boy was there a battle through the final few steps with the wind pushing against me and the hail raining down from the sky. It was hard not to listen to her. It begged the question, am I taking a moment to stop and listen to me right now or am I continuing to push ahead without awareness? When I did arrive at the top, the magical stillness that encouraged me to stop felt like a forcefield where I had no choice but to look and listen to all that was around and within me.
For us to communicate clearly, presence is required. We have to stop and be present and aware. Moving to the west of Ireland, life moves at a slower pace and its taking me patience to slip into this way of being. City life is busy and there are plans made weeks in advance, whereas here it’s more of a minute by minute, day by day way of life. And I noticed over the last couple of weeks that I need to be better at listening, really listening to others and to myself. I have to open up more to hearing what others have to share without planning my response or jumping in to reply.
"Listening is more important than anything else because that's what music is. Somebody is playing something and you’re receiving it. It is sending and receiving.”
Listening takes many forms, it can be verbal and non-verbal. It can be through conversation, body language or energetic. Spending time at the side of a loved one's hospital bed can mean sitting in quietness and allowing the person to feel your presence whilst letting them sleep; it can be a hand and foot rub so that they feel a healing touch; it can be chatting about mundane, everyday things; it can be listening to stories of old that they suddenly feel the need to share; it can be listening to them share their symptoms and support their words if need be with those who know best and it can have a beautiful way of allowing us all to learn more so that we become better at listening.
It’s a DIVINE place to be able to BE… simply listening and being there for someone else.
Just as Queen Maeve lies on Knocknarea listening to the many footsteps that walk her land and the words of people who have visited her, she in turn provides a place to voice what we may not be able to voice to others, she provides a quiet stillness to allow us to be and also a howling wind if we feel the need to join in. And this is the gift we can give, if we simply take the time to stop, look and listen.
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