I was listening to someone today. It felt pretty ordinary. I didn’t consider it ‘listening’ at first. It was conversational. Simple. Ordinary, even.
Until I was stunned. Stunned awake.
Still, it was a simple moment. We had been talking about homes. I began mocking how I’ve been ignoring house cleaning recently. In a self deprecating way, & imitating a husband’s voice, I bellowed, “I work hard and earn all the money. What do you do all day?”
My companion bellowed in response – bending at the waist laughing so hard his eyes were mere slits in his face, his mouth a wide open O. Between laughs he said, “Being happy, like you are, is hard work!”
I was taken aback.
I was taken aback in several ways. First, the person whom I am referring to above actually is my husband. I did not expected his response – and the surprise of it lifted bellows of laughter out of me!
Second, or somehow conjoined with the first, I recalled a line in a book I read years ago. The line had a similar impact where I was taken aback. It was a spiritual journey kind of book by Arnaud Desjardin. Desjardin described the moment he stood before his guru and the guru asked: “Are you happy?”
A simple and ordinary question. A pigeon of a question. Yet Desjardin went on to describe how that question in that moment was the most terrifying thing he could have been asked. And it stunned him awake.
How much responsibility is actually involved in being happy? That may not be how we generally think of it. How do you think of it? For myself there is an automatic response that someone or something or some activity ‘makes me happy.’ And yet that kind of happiness… happiness dependent on something… is pretty fleeting.
This comes back to listening, though, and how rewarding we have discovered it to be. I can tell you that listening makes me happy. But you, as volunteers committed to the service of listening, know what I mean by that. I don’t mean it at all in the same way that, say, a double scoop of hand-dipped chocolate ice cream on a waffle cone makes me happy.
Heartful listening exposes happiness. It doesn’t come from the outside. No one can hand it to you. Practicing the sacred art of listening exposes something – fulfillment, reward, joy, connection, authenticity – that exists naturally. It exists naturally but paradoxically it takes dedication or effort or interest or attention, ie: work, to experience it. Commitment, practice, selfless-ness, wakefulness – all of it ‘hard work,’ and all of it an inside job.
My husband pointed out that he recognizes my ‘hard work’ of being happy. You have heard Marcia and I thank you over and over again for listening. It is ‘hard work,’ it is harder work than we could ask of anybody… and you do it anyway. That level of responsibility and wakefulness – and the inherent reward – is available to everyone, yet not everyone chooses to engage with it. Our gratitude is humbling and it is forth-pouring.
Listening is ordinary. Listening is just a pigeon. But, oh what a pigeon it is.
birds of a feather,
Avie & Marcia