The Courage to Listen

Geordie Bull

I’ve been tapping keys on this computer for hours when my body whispers to me with its language of lethargy, “it is time to dream”.  Outside, the trees are being whipped around by wind and rain; it is a day to go quiet and rest indoors, to curl up and tend what begs to be cared for.

The bright screen beckons me from my fire-side blanket, guilt-tripping me with work that needs to be done, stories that must be written for other people, a clock that ticks on relentlessly. But inside, mystory burns to be explored, yearns to be told. It patiently waits until I come to the bottom of my to-do list and give it the attention it needs. How long will it wait?

It is so hard to turn the world off and tend the inner flame. The only way I can do it is to retreat from the world and all its false wisdom, even in the midst of busyness, and turn towards my trusted friends for wisdom: ancient fairy tales, poets and fringe-dwellers whose sane voices call out from the dog-eared pages of books that I return to, again and again, for reassurance that what I feel has been felt before. They –  Christina Pinkola-Estes, Mary Oliver, John O-Donahue and so many more – whisper continuously, “the world can wait”. For there is real work to be done.

I’ve lived long enough to know the very real danger of not heeding the call inward. The wise body will rebel if the soul is ignored, inviting sickness, mental illness or grief. I’ve also experienced, again and again, the wonder of being gently led inward by a deep knowing – almost like a question, “what would happen if I did this?” As outside demands fall away, I meet timelessness by doing what my soul has requested of me (usually it is to write, draw or cook, for it so often speaks through creative practice). When I am called to emerge from this process, I come back with renewed energy and clarity – often accomplishing whatever onerous task I was previously labouring on with renewed vigour. If this is not magic, what is?

I have witnessed this miracle over and over again – the call to do something that makes no sense, just because it feels good and right and the magical after effects of doing this. Yet, each time I am called, I resist. Why? Because, real and true and the call is, it still appears on the surface to lead me in the opposite direction what the world tells me I should be doing. The voice of the soul speaks in a language of magic and mystery while the world shouts of productivity, logic and people-pleasing.

But here is what I have discovered: everything good in my life has come to me because I listened to those quiet whispers that said, “let go, try this, travel here, stay home, go to the garden, pick up a paintbrush, jump on the trampoline.” Where once I believed listening to these calls was a luxury, something to do when I had time, I now understand the act of listening to be a necessity.  Developing a relationship with this gentle, knowing, truthful voice allows me to rest in the knowledge that I (my flawed and confused ego) am not the only one in charge around here. Despite anything the world tries to tell me, I know that the decision to trust my soul’s whispers is the best gift I can give myself, and ultimately, the everyone around me.