Recently I’ve thought of listening as seeds. Just as there are things a seed needs in order to thrive and grow, there are things that nurture listening allowing it to thrive and grow. Without light, nourishment, oxygen, and a particular temperature or substrate a seed dies. Whatever the seed might have become just never happens. We could say it is similar with listening. If we don’t show up, pay attention, and desire to hear what another might share, listening doesn’t have much chance of happening.
Listening happens. Sometimes listening doesn’t happen. Speaking in the passive voice here is intentional. In my experience, listening happens. When it happens, it doesn’t feel like I’m ‘doing’ it. There are aspects of agency, sure. I do practice listening like all LP volunteer listeners do. I make a choice to be available for listening, I can say that.
But listening, listening itself, feels different. Listening happens through me, maybe, but it doesn’t feel sourced in me. Perhaps the greatest agency I have when it comes to listening is that I ‘stop doing’ things that interfere with it.
Back to the seeds. Life, germinating from a seed, happens. We can provide attention and care, but we are not the agent of… life.
One of the reasons that I’ve been thinking about listening as seeds is due to this mystery: we practice listening but we can’t make it happen. Our commitment to practicing the art of listening has stayed strong for 12 years now. And still, humbly, the most we can do is tend to our listening practice, allowing ourselves to be available, and – like gardening – wait.
Just a few days ago, on Sept 16th,, the Listening Post reached its 12th anniversary. In our twelve years together, the LP has gone through some significant transitions. A huge change was when we were no longer able to rent our space downtown. Easily accessible for our guests and furnished to feel like a welcoming living room, we wondered if we could offer our service without it.
That was five years ago. The LP not only survived, it expanded and thrived. Though it took time and went in directions we didn’t see coming, we went from serving in our home space and at BFS to serving in eight different locations within Anchorage and Palmer. Our ninth location was just coming on board when the wise response to the Covid pandemic was to pause service at all of our locations.
We thought the pause would be for one brief month and then we’d re-evaluate the situation. Now, seven months later, Susan is calling this our ‘Great Pause.’ We do plan on carrying on with our service of listening and, in fact, are six months into our online listening pilot program. But we have not yet been able to return to our in person, face to face, listening service.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. I wonder, though, if I’m hinting at something you’ve been suspecting already. Like the situation of losing our home space for listening, we are once again in a situation where we quite possibly are being asked to open ourselves to new possibilities.
The idea of seeds comes up for me, again. I’m fascinated to explore listening as being not just a seed of potentiality, but a seed bank. By practicing listening for twelve years now, what seeds have we cultivated? Being in a Great Pause for seven months now, what seeds have we stored? What precious seed of the heart can we disseminate into the world in this moment? We are not alone in this time of the Great Pause, let alone this time of painful racial tension, friction, and hostility, decades of divisive politcs.
If listening could be a seed bank, what do we find in the reserves? It feels as if we are being asked to make a withdrawal and share the wealth. I do have a sense of confidence, after experiencing our transition from a home space to spreading out and listening all over the city, that whatever might happen through listening… will happen. We have good practices in place: showing up, paying attention, letting go of outcome, holding space for others. What are the seeds of listening that you hold in your heart for the world?
Our gratitude for how you continue to be available for listening to happen,
p.s. the flax was selected to be part of todays pic because linen is made from flax and linen happens to be the traditional gift for a twelfth anniversary.