A passage from “The Excursion,” by Willian Wordsworth
I have seen
A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract
Of inland ground, applying to his ear
The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell;
To which, in silence hushed, his very soul
Listened intensely; and his countenance soon
Brightened with joy; for from within were heard
Murmurings, whereby the monitor expressed
Mysterious union with its native sea.
Even such a shell the universe itself
Is to the ear of Faith; and there are times,
I doubt not, when you do it doth impart
Authentic tidings of invisible things;
Of ebb and flow, and ever-during power;
And of central peace, subsisting at the heart
of endless agitation.
I have heard from a volunteer that listening this week continues to be intense in ways similar to what was shared in our volunteers’ meeting last week. When we as listeners don’t know what to do, when a guest suffers greatly or is reactive against our offering of a listening ear, when we simply arrive at our listening shift and have no idea what we’ll be faced with… we turn to the guidelines of deep listening: Let go of outcome.
We could ask How? How does one let go of outcome? In our training manual it mentions that ‘letting go of outcome’ is probably the most difficult aspect of our listening practice. After all, letting go of outcome is difficult in our lives in general. But the question ‘how?’ is not really answerable. Partly because no one can do it for you.
Maybe, though, there is a more helpful question.
What does it feel like when you let go of outcome?
I invite you to sit with that question yourself. And I invite you to return to that question, or some helpful question from your own curiosity, in any moment when you notice yourself called to let go and yet don’t know how.
Also, I invite you to welcome paradox… A central peace, subsisting at the heart of endless agitation.
In a small act of solidarity, I was moved to let this letter be a demonstration of letting go of outcome. Without having a topic or subject in mind, I perused public domain photos on line till one grabbed my attention. If you’ve read these letters long enough, you know this is one of my writing methods.
This time, though, I didn’t focus on a picture that somehow struck a chord with the practice of listening. The potter’s hands were a simply a stand out picture in and amongst all the holiday images this time of year. It stirred my memory of a book I’ve kept for thirty years or more, Centering, by M. C. Richards. Still not knowing what I would write this week, I pulled Centering off the shelf and flipped pages randomly till my thumb caught one. My commitment was to use whatever was revealed as the base for today’s letter, no matter what was on the page.
My thumb landed on the Wordsworth poem above and the last line couple of lines sounded like the correspondence I had with a volunteer this week.
Please accept this simple act of allowing and letting go of outcome to be support for just that. And, please, if you are having a hard time letting go of outcome during this intense season and poetry just isn’t your cup of tea… call, txt, or email me or another listener. Sometimes we don’t need a poem or a helpful question, we just need a listening ear ourselves.
all my thanks for your listening hearts and your practice of letting go of outcome,