River Valley Insight Meditation Community

A welcoming Buddhist Sangha in western Massachusetts

by Devin (Practice Leader)

Reasons for Listening

We all know that hearing is one of the five senses gifted to us at birth, yes? 

Usually.  Not always.

There were quite a few deaf family members among my relatives as I grew up.  My dad was one; he contracted measles in his teenage years and went deaf (a common side effect in the early 1900s).  Other family members were profoundly deaf from birth.

However, I was born with the full gift of hearing.  And as is the case with those of us who got the full complement of senses at birth, I never gave it a second thought.  Not even with a deaf father.  No gratitude! 

That is, until each Spring, when it became impossible for me to ignore the cacophony of birds, frogs, and all other ready-to-mate beings running around on this lovely blue marble of a planet.  Those bird calls…those spring peepers and tree frogs and bullfrogs!  Even now, despite years of environmental abuse, on many Spring weeks it’s nearly an outright din, day and night. 

Delicious when we let ourselves become aware of it.

Spring is a season when I’m deeply grateful to be able to hear, and to listen.  It’s as if creatures cannot help the celebration of beginning again, preparing their nests or perhaps waking and surfacing from mud as the ice melts on the waters.  It’s as if they are calling, “Now!  Right now! Full attention, here, now!”  And starting over, starting again.  Just as we learn to do in meditation.  There is so much to hear.

And that is the trick:  to become aware, to take it in, to be here and present for it.  To be mindful.  To simply begin again.

In our troubled times, the sheer ruckus of Nature in the Spring can be incredibly calming and bring joy.

This week I’ve run across two marvelous articles, one touting how calming (most) bird songs can be. Perhaps it’s because we are wired in the oldest, survival-oriented area of the brain to relax when we hear birds sing; that ancient part stored the information long ago that birdsong usually indicates, “There are no predators nearby.” Thus, we get the message we are safe.  Silence can indicate danger, so birdsong subliminally helps us relax even when we don’t know why.  (Of course, some birds do have annoying voices. I’m talking about the others.)

A second article was a blog inspired by the sound of spring peepers, and includes one of the loveliest poems I have read, by poet James Crews.  This post even has some writing prompts that help increase mindfulness and presence.  Take a moment to enjoy the poem, “Shameless Praise,” HERE.

Listening in Spring, really hearing, can bring us joy.  I listen now with full attention. I listen for myself, for my dad, and for my other family members who never had that choice.  I listen with deep gratitude, aware of this gift.  May you find your own joy in listening to Spring’s many voices.  Take this moment and offer them your full attention. Reasons for listening have never been more clear.

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