I'd never really thought about the quality of my own listening, at all, not really. And I certainly never considered how it related to my ability to live a joyful life.
Yesterday I did.
Sitting and waiting outside a public bath house for my Pisces son to shower for the nine hours he needs to even get properly started, I noticed that all the softness from our day at the river was ebbing away. I felt myself getting twitchy and overwhelmed, stretched back over the coals.
Soon, the noise and hubbub of the campground became almost unbearable. On the inside I was actively struggling with a relationship that seemed to be dive bombing: I felt like a banana that had fallen out of the bunch and gotten stepped on all day, approximately 98% bruise. Every shriek, every laugh, just hurt.
"but, what am I really hearing?"
Then suddenly, a new question appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.
I realized that I wasn't hearing anything, I was trying NOT to hear. I was pre-judging everything before it happened and then avoiding having any authentic experience.
As often happens with me, my pain inspires me to give things a go because it can't get worse than total butt feeling, so I took the question and put it in my heart, and then I really listened.
There was a moment, when I was five, and I came home from the eye doctor with glasses for the first time in my life. I'd likely needed them for a few years, but no one knew. I remember taking my little bike out for a ride around the neighborhood, and being almost derailed in my ability to keep biking by how crisp and clear and new the world was to me with new lenses on.
The question put new lenses on my ears.
The couple loudly discussing the details of their relationship, I closed my eyes and heard, deep in the tenor of their voices, in the rapt attention with each other, with the universe of care they were giving this moment and each other, I heard tenderness, fathoms deep.
And the teenage girls racing out of the water and screaming their fool heads off, I heard, celebration. Of life.
No bother with filter. No interest in approval. Freedom, freedom, freedom.
And the young child desperate for his mother's attention, voice rising like an angry tidal wave, I heard, the quest for understand and clarity. A hero's quest, he's a tiny hero stepping onto his path.
In this new way of listening, something was conspicuously absent: my lazy, knee-jerk and "you're so wrong" interpretation.
Without those judgements, like wet salami over my glasses, I suddenly had access to a cacophony of beautiful movements, all the pure lines of life intersecting and increasing, and grace and grace and grace.
Go ahead, have a listen.