~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~

Listening as an Act of Love

August 17, 2020
It’s early morning, just at first light. The house is quiet and heavy with sleep. You’re the first one up. You recognize the possibility of this lovely moment.

You creep downstairs, put the kettle on, stealthily prepare your tea, and slip out the front door. You settle onto the front steps into a seat of peaceful repose, half of you still asleep and half craning your eyes upward toward the light. You sip and you soften into the ease of the waking day.

Your mind understands that it’s too early for to-do lists or ambition of any sort. There is not a thing you need to do quite yet. You exhale, and without even thinking, you settle into a receptive and open state. Nothing needs to happen, you recognize, and yet anything might.

And so you sit, watching the day slowly stretch her arms. The birdsong begins, the light begins to shift, the sky begins to glow. You hear the house creak, you feel the breeze whispering by, you feel your body rise and fall with each breath.

You sense an awakening in your soft heart, a renewed bloom of the shy light that shines within, a willingness to fall in love with the world yet again. You remember theologian Paul Tillich's words, "The first duty of love is to listen," and you know that in this soulful moment you have found your way into deep knowing of what he meant.

In these quiet moments of the morning, receptive and open and easy, you sense in your bones the necessity of listening, of opening yourself wide to the mystery and the grandeur of the world. You understand the importance of opening your mind and heart so wide that life pours into you with all its delicacy and strength. You sense the possibility of participating deeply in the world without needing to speak a word.

And you promise to remember this quieter way of being, even later, when the day begins to burn bright with activity and bustle. You commit to staying close to this whispering flame that flickers in your heart. You consider the possibility of listening to others just the way you’ve listened to the dawn, with the doors and windows of your heart open wide.

You smile as you sense how full and tender this way of being feels within - expansive, curious, open to every thought and every sound. You understand the gift of bearing witness, of listening without judgment. You sense the healing balm of a soul who listens, truly listens, with a mind clear and a heart wide open.

And then you remember Mary Oliver’s words, “Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness," and you feel like this wise poet is sitting right beside you, smiling. You vow to move forward with Oliver’s words on your lips all day as an offering to the greater world.

This very morning, it seems, you have  been given a new pair of ears that allow you to listen deeply to the song of life. And you sigh in profound happiness. Somehow, before the day has even lurched into action, you have been made whole.

You pledge to hold you close to love and loveliness, leaning in close to life and listening well. You promise to carry this openness out into the day ahead. Perhaps it will be a gift to others, just as it has already been for you.

The house begins to stir and you take one last sip of tea. You take a deep breath, listen to the morning song one last time, and promise to incline your ears, your eyes and your heart toward the world with openness, with ease, and with love that shines from the quiet, listening place within.

This essay was written for Dwelling in the Heart, Claudia's 2016 online lovingkindness immersion.