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What I hear sitting here, at home, quietly, early in the morning: the footsteps of my upstairs neighbors, a buzzing of some machine outside, a bird, my heart’s soft beating if I listen very carefully and with intent.
Then there are the voices in the head, the endless chatter.
Nothing clinical, I don’t think, just interweaving thoughts and voices on the airwaves of the mind.
I takes a lifetime to identify the ever changing voices, to realize when my child’s voice is speaking, petulant perhaps and quite demanding, or the quiet and content wise one, and all others — somehow navigating and learning on the job to listen to the right voice at the right time.
It’s like driving a car, with 3 other navigators on board, each using a different map or GPS with contradicting directions to the same destination. How do we cultivate better listening to the navigation system within?
Finding our true voice in the world is linked to being able to hear clearly what our voice is telling us within. And though voices shifts and needs create new ways of being in the world, I believe that mindful practices help us tune out the distractions and be able to connect to the best possible navigation device to get us to our destination – a better, balanced life.
These days of Teshuva are helpful to this process. We take the time to think and feel, reflect and refresh. The voice of the shofar, the melodies, the chants, the sound of excited clapping, on beat, somehow converge to get us listening better – inside, for just a moment or two of clarity, connection. All this pageantry is about attaining this fleeting and precious moment of deep listening, hearing what we need to hear.
The Torah cycle, almost in fade-out, also reminds us to stop and listen. The grand poem which is Moses’ last begins with the word for which the portion is named: Ha’azinu: Listen.
It’s often translated as ‘give ear’, because the Hebrew word comes from the noun ‘ozen’ – ear. There’s another word connected here – ‘izun’ – balance, comes from the same root, indicating the vital links between our physical ears, our inner hearing, and our sense of balance.
The old poet frames his poem in cosmic context: The heaven and the earth are called as witnesses, holding the balance of reality between their horizontal perspectives:
32:1 Hear this heavens, I will now speak; Let the earth listen to the words of my mouth.
The poem itself, like rain, like dew, is a combination of comforting hopes and bleak warnings, but I leave the words behind for now, just listening to this invitation to listen deeply to what sings within me today, this moment, right now.
And just before I tune out to listen in I notice the noises around me: A truck, a tap, and my next door neighbor, a saxophone teacher has started the day and a hopeful back up track plays loud along an aspiring student: ‘the sun will come out, tomorrow…’
Shhhhhh Shabbat Shalom. Shana Tova!
(one final Word coming up on Simchat Torah….)
Amichai Lau-Lavie is the Spiritual Leader of Lab/Shul and Founder and Executive Director of Storahtelling, Inc. creating sustainable solutions for life-long Jewish Learning since 1999. storahtelling.org, www.labshul.org