Softening the Wolf
“...We can listen our way out
of anger, if we let the heart
soften the wolf we keep in-
side. We can last by listening
deeply, the way roots reach for
the next inch of earth, the way
an old turtle listens all he hears
into the pattern of his shell.”
Mark Nepo (excerpted from "On the Ridge;” Reduced to Joy)
One essential ingredient to change, both inner change and outer change, is the ability and desire to listen. And, not only to listen, but to hear and understand. And, not only to listen, hear and understand, but to empathize. This is true whether we are listening to a foe, or a mate, or to our innermost thoughts. We humans are so distracted, myself included, by information and technology, that we rarely listen deeply to anything. The chaotic nature of this time exists, in part, because we are so over-stimulated that we do not take time to listen with our hearts. We react rather than respond—and then we tweet or we Facebook.
I like Nepo's image of the old turtle listening his shell into being. Turtles move slowly. How many times have you stopped your car to help an old turtle cross the road? They aren't sprinters. In order to listen, hear, and understand, we have to slow down. We have to be still to listen—to the wind in trees, birds singing, children playing next door, someone else's words—to realize that life is happening all around us. People are being born and dying, having interesting conversations and making love, laughing and crying, and it's not even a sit-com or a reality show. It's real life.
A friend of mine just spent four days at the beach in a location that had bad cell phone reception and no internet connection. She met new people; actually learned about them, and they about her. She came home knowing their stories, seeing them as friends, and being refreshed by the experience. She listened, and heard, and understood. Her statement to me: “I really need more tech-free time.”
We can learn to listen within, down to our roots. If we were to ponder and turn things over, to listen with all our parts and not just our ears, we might “soften the wolf we keep inside.” There might be a lot less pessimism and paranoia swirling around inside us. Who knows—we might even find peace. How would that feel?
In the Spirit