Dedicated to Shaneese Slim-Slap Smith
In our kitchen, one side of the refrigerator is covered with my inspirational magnets. These magnets are segregated from the front of the fridge, as Mr. Conan-future-husband does not want my cheesy magnets next to his very serious fridge art. So, I get the side wall. The side leading to the basement. The poorly lit side nobody sees. My faded inspirational magnets, and the butterfly magnets and the Hello Kitty magnet too, banished to a sort of dark girly ghetto.
Mr. Conan is the Lord of the Kitchen and as such has deemed my fridge ornaments unworthy of his gaze whilst sauteing the zucchini. Fine. I accept his kitchen-isms. It’s one of those things you just surrender in a relationship. He is a very good cook and, truth be told, I enjoy being cooked for. It balances out the magnet thing. Who needs inspiration when you have lasagna! Same thing goes for driving. I loathe driving. He likes to drive, so I let him drive when we are together, even when we’re in my car. Some might see this as a loss of power. I see it as totally freakin’ Zen.
“Zen master to some, princess to otherrrs,” says Mr. Octopus.
“Well, it’s not all my fault. People with Octopus totems are not good at house stuff. I read that on a website.”
“I’ll alert the press.”
“You don’t believe me.”
“Even so, that doesn’t explain the driving. What’s behind that?”
“Oh dear God.”
So, I have a plethora of inspirational fridge magnets. They are like spiritual fast-food for the masses. And I have a lot of them because I am slow and dumb and need to see things over and over again until I listen. Listening takes a shit-load of presence. It means you have to actually stop what you are doing and thinking. And we hate to stop our doing and thinking.
Mr. Chulo, the four-legged friend I live with is an expert listener. He does not filter anything out. While not every noise startles him, every noise is meaningful to him and receives his attention. (And he’s not too fond of my singing).
So, just by being with him, I am learning how to listen. I am learning that listening is not an intellectual thing. See, I thought I knew how to listen but then he showed me how to listen with my whole being. I was like, damn, he be listenaaan.
Speaking of listening, I wanted to explain why I haven’t written in a while. I guess you could boil it down to that: I need more time for listening. Practicing outward listening, like I do when I’m in the park with Chulo, also shows me how to inwardly listen. The process is very similar, except with inward listening you have to be willing to not rely on external affirmation of what you heard, or when you do have external affirmation in the sudden call of a bird or a gentle stirring of the wind, to accept it. For, what you just heard inwardly will not be confirmed with a computer printout: AFFIRMATIVE WILL ROBINSON. CUCKOO NEST DIRECTLY AHEAD. FIVE KILOMETERS. WATCH OUT FOR THE POOP. Of course, there are spiritual technologies that will help you to affirm your inward listening, such as throwing shells, but ultimately, one has to learn to read their own inner landscape. There ain’t no app for that.
As I learn to slowly read my inner landscape it feels like…like…waking up, like the light of myself slowly dawning, like the budding of wings, like becoming a friend to myself and the Is-ness and everything. I’ve wanted time, long rainy afternoons of time, to just be with that and a cup of tea. It is truly delicious. I hardly want to leave the house once I get into one of my listening binges. I don’t know how I’m going to support myself this way, but I don’t lose sleep worrying about it either.
In fact, the more I listen, the more I recognize “Worry” as an intruder. Worry is my Tybalt, entering with his wild sword and knocking over the party glasses. The more I listen, the more I recognize “Resistance” as unnecessary. When I listen and take right action based on listening, resistance becomes disarmed.
Listening helps me reclaim my impossible soul’s direction. Actually, the directional thing is where I sometimes get messed up. I get impatient, wanting to see the whole picture and I miss the next turn that’s right in front of me. Then I gotta go back. Make an illegal u-turn. Get pulled over. Get a ticket. Get pissed at myself. It’s a bummer.
So, listening doesn’t give you the entire gps directions. It usually just shows you the next step, at least for a beginner like me, and it’s usually something small which is why we tend to miss it, like, take a bath, or light a candle. Deep in the seat of my being, I know where I want to go. I know that when I feel lost, if I just take a step back and listen, and patiently wait for clarity, it will come. Owl totem.