Hearing and Listening


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Sitting inside the chapel for the second funeral in two weeks, I am consciously aware that important events like this create a space where it is acceptable to simply sit quietly, and listen. It is a time and place where each sound is woven into the unique symphony that is this funeral.

A time to listen to the music being played by the piano or the guitar, the individual somewhere singing loudly off-key, the feedback from one of the microphones. A place to listen to the whispers between the songs, the sniffles, and the doors being swished closed almost inaudibly. A moment to listen to the separate individual voices of the loved ones recounting a life well lived.

Stopping for lunch later at the local diner, the feeling of quiet is still there, inside, as the world around me suddenly erupts with sound. I realize this is the symphony of the diner.

I sit for a minute, listening to the voices. Someone is laughing lightly in a back corner. Silverware and dishes clink, clank, and clatter. The television volume is low but still on. I watch the news announcer’s lips move to understand what he is saying, straining to hear. There is no closed caption. Somewhere behind me near the kitchen there is music. The bell on the door dings brightly as another patron enters. The sounds rise and fall steadily.

After one minute, I notice something else is happening. I hear the individual sounds with more clarity and perceive their unique part in the symphony of the diner. I am part of this symphony, too. I feel my rib cage when I take a deep breath into this awareness. When the waiter returns to take my order, it’s as if I see him for the first time minus the background chatter of my mind.

My ears are awake to the words he is saying to me.

Mentastics minute:
Find the silence within the symphony of sound in any familiar or new place. Take one minute to hear the individual instruments that collectively create that symphony. Notice what happens with the practice of listening and hearing.