"To enter deep listening, I've had to
learn how to keep emptying and opening,
how to keep beginning. I've had to lean into
all I don't understand, accepting that I
am changed by what I hear."
|A Mother's Devotion - Ballyvaughan, Ireland 2009|
I am completely immersed in Mark Nepo's book, "Seven Thousand Ways to Listen" at the moment. Since, for me, contemplative photography begins with and is crucially dependent upon visual listening, using the ear of the heart to open us to the wisdom of the landscape, this was bound to be a book that would touch me profoundly and it has. Mark explains in the opening chapter of the book that if there are 7,000 living languages in the world today, then there must be 7,000 ways to listen. If I added the mysterious and hidden languages of the natural world, the languages of earth and wind and sea and all the rest of it, well, it could easily be hundreds of thousands of way to listen! Oh, I can hear the linguists out there saying the natural world doesn't have "languages" as such but I would respectfully disagree. Just because Nature does use words doesn't mean it isn't communicating with us all the time. (Makes me think of the monk and the philosopher in my last post.)
I came across these horses one day while I was in the Burren region of Ireland. The little foal seemed to stay very close to its mother and the mare was constantly nuzzling the little guy. There was such a beautiful connection between the two and at times, like in the photograph above, she seemed to be listening intently to her baby. There was no need for words for the communication was on a much deeper, non-linguistic, level.
That is what visual listening in the landscape is for me. Although it is a kind of subliminal communication it is, nonetheless, very real. It uses all the senses and when I'm able to fully involve myself in the experience, no words are ever necessary. I can simple breath in the landscapes subtle message. When I'm hurried or when I find it hard to quiet my mind, the message is garbled and intermittent, like listening to a radio that is not tuned in. But when I can attend completely the message comes across loud and clear. Over the years I've come to understand that the quiet time I spend alone in the landscape is the most personally enriching and meaningful time for me and I can always trust that the part of me that knows beyond my minds knowing will seek out and attune to what is important for me to hear at that moment. This is another wonderful quote from Mark's book...
"...how do we listen to and stay in conversation
with all that is beyond our awareness?...intuition
is the very personal way we listen to the
Universe in order to discover and rediscover
the learnings we are born with."
That subliminal, unspoken communication in Nature can be awesome to witness. Click on the link below to see a demonstration of just such a kind of wordless communication...be prepared to be amazed!