June 3–Listening: Perception and Reception

We are multi-sensory beings.  We take in information in at least 5 ways: through smell, taste, sight, touch and sound.  Apparently, as human beings, we have evolved a complex of ways of being in relation to these sense perceptions as well.  On the one hand, any of us can experience sensory overload from too much coming in through one or more than one sense at a time.  Smelling fire, seeing flames and smoke, and feeling heat is enough to cause human beings to panic, experience heart difficulties, and the adrenaline rush associated with too much information like that too quickly can cause our bodies to function so badly that we fall down tripping over our attempts to run!

On the other hand, we can become so focused on one sense that we lose almost all connection to the other senses.  Recently, Lydia and I spent several hours walking through the Rachel Carson Wildlife Preserve in Kennebunk, Maine.  I was completely taken in by all that there was to take in with my eyes.  Occasionally, a tree was so incredibly large or otherwise beckoning, that I had to move toward it and touch it.  A piece of advertising had billed this as a great place for bird watching, and I noted, about half way through our walk, that I had not seen any birds.  Lydia said–listen, they are singing all around us.  I chuckled because there were no birds singing.

Except that there were.  After a few moments of tuning my sense of sound back into the experience, the forest was exploding with bird music.  I had tuned it out.  Once I allowed my ears to do their job and paid attention, the remainder of our walk through the Preserve was so much richer.

I am clear that listening is a process that is deeper than simply hearing, but it must begin there.  Today, let us invite our ears into our experiences, especially those of us who may tend to tune out sounds for other experiences.  And, once we know that we are open to sound, take one more intention for the day: to listen to what the sounds are bringing to us.

Bob Patrick

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