“There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.” ~ Rumi
We have been walking around as a species for the last 200,000 years so deeply in communion with the Earth that we called ourselves human –from the humus. To listen was to live. To listen and understand became our collective story about who we are as a species. To listen and know the wild heart beat of Earth is at once the birthright and sacred responsibility of humans.
It is only in the last century that we have come to dominate the soundscape with sounds only we make, or that our technology emits. As musician Amy Martin describes in her TED talk Tuning In, there is a global chorus on this planet with each species singing their particular language. Perhaps we are not at the linguistic center of the universe. We most certainly are not the conductor of this grand chorus. However, listening intimately to the languages of other species might be central to our own survival. As Charles Darwin concluded in Origin of Species, individual species in-tune with their environment live on.
Culturally, many of the religious wisdom teachings around the world welcome us to tune in to the Earth, such as in the book of Job:
“But ask now the beasts,
and they shall teach thee;
and the fowls of the air,
and they shall teach thee;
Or speak to the earth,
and it shall teach thee;
And the fishes of the sea
Shall declare unto thee.
In addition to listening to Earth being key to our survival as humans, and the teachings that our religious wisdom traditions give us, something as central to being human as learning to speak is also dependent upon listening. As children we first learn to speak from prolonged active listening. However, as we grow older males especially seem to forget these experiences. Men, most of all, close themselves off from listening to the Earth and to the feminine. Male energy becomes destructive when it is separated from the spirit of the Earth, for it adopts a disrespectful attitude toward the feminine. Male energy today is too often an isolated, destructive masculinity with no connections to its roots in the feminine Earth. In turn, males have been using their power in a prolonged war against the Earth, and against the feminine.
Masculinity has become a conquest over Earth and anything female namely because most men don’t understand either one. This lack of understanding leads to fear, and this type of fear leads to feeling vulnerable. Instead of courageously working with this vulnerability, boys and men in our society are taught to push down those two feelings at all costs, and substitute anger and domination over others in their place.
The Earth and feminine Nature is a power greater than men can fully understand with only mind and muscle. Rather than trying to control and dominate the Earth and the feminine, learn to embrace and respect them. It starts with humble listening – part letting go and part embracing. Letting go of the noise – outside noise of machine and of social media chasing its own tale. And, letting go of the inside noise of the negative stories we tell ourselves, and of our beliefs that we think are the truth.
The word humble, like human, has its root in the Latin, humus. We need to embrace humble listening. Think of your own being as a vessel. The Tao Te Ching teaches us that it is not the vessel itself, but the space within it that makes it useful. Is your vessel completely full to the brim with your own beliefs, with no room for new ones? You must let go, and make room if you are to come into communion with Earth and the feminine.
If you fail to let go of your preconceptions it could be because of your fear of uncertainty. Embracing uncertainty takes heaps of courage. It takes trust in the creative process that is communion. If you anchor into concrete your beliefs, then you might feel safe, confident, assured – but in the end you will be stuck in that one place forever. No movement, no discovery, no growth.
Wendell Berry speaks to the power of solitude as the pathway toward communion:
“We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness…
True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation.
One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources.
In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes with oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.”
Seek places where you can embrace solitude. Embrace solitude with Nature – wherever you can still find her. Whether you have access to forest or park, community garden, or a few plants on a balcony – ten minutes a day of meditative deep listening to the Earth is a start, and it will begin to move you.
Rather than using only sitting meditation, one can walk in nature in a way open to hearing the Earth, like the Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh says, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” There are thousands of ways to do this. One ancient way of walking within a sacred design is to walk a labyrinth. As Dr. Lauren Artress describes in her book, Walking a Sacred Path, the labyrinth is a spiritual tool for quieting your mind, and finding your center. Labyrinths are being constructed all over the country with public access. You can find one near you by searching at https://labyrinthlocator.com/
Eventually, you will want to go deeper with listening and connecting with Earth. If you can find a way to immerse yourself in a wild or natural place in solitude for several days, it will have a marked and powerful affect on you. A growing body of research demonstrates that solitude and immersion in nature for even short periods of an hour walk has many positive physiological and psychological benefits. These benefits are magnified when you take a 2-3 day trip hiking and camping in nature. And, sleeping outside in nature under dark skies for a long weekend results in a resetting of your internal clock, and true renewal.
My first experience as an adult with prolonged deep solitude in Nature was twenty-five years ago this month. I was at a pivotal stage of my life. Seeking answers, I was drawn to find a way to be in communion with the spirit of the Earth. Choosing a quiet place of natural beauty that I had a personal connection with, I brought a sleeping bag, a notebook and pencil, and some tea. I fasted from food for two days and two nights under a light snow falling. It was quiet enough to hear the snow touching down on the forest floor. I gathered water from the flowing creek, boiling it and making tea to drink. I did not speak. I prayed, meditated, listened for those two days and nights, and when I dreamed I listened to my spirit speaking to me. This experience shifted me to where I felt I was aligning with my soul.
I believe if men can make deep listening part of their journey, where they know what it sounds like to hear Earth’s wild heart, it will change human relations with each other and the planet. When you do this deep listening in solitude, you will come to know how to hear the beat of your own wild heart. This listening journey will eventually become an understanding of the languages of other species, especially when you also seek to learn the language of ecology – the science of understanding the interactions within and between organisms in this grand chorus on Earth. And, your own masculinity will become more aligned with and respectful of the feminine.
As Rumi teaches us, “There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.”
In part one of this two-part article, Listen Part 1: The Power of Men Listening to Women, I discuss the importance, methods, and power of men listening to women. These articles are the first in a series of a ten-step pathway titled Re-Imagining Masculinity.
Brent Thomas Ladd blogs at EmergeWild.com, connecting wild nature with our wild hearts.