So many metaphors about life.
A landscaped journey; making lemonade from lemons; cyclical like the seasons; a recipe for disaster; like a box of chocolates (you never know what you’re gonna get); a bowl of cherries (it’s the pits), a bittersweet symphony…and on and on.
Lately though, as the sounds of spring reach their heightened state flowing into summer, I roam the meadows and heathlands and rolling hills to the sounds of anature’s symphony, the birds and insects vibrating sometimes together, sometimes apart, with changing rhythm, tempo and pitch. Sometimes the crickets keep the beat whilst skylarks and linnets and yellowhammers belt out their tireless contribution. Other times, it is a tawny owl maintaining a low pulse and documenting the passage of time. A lone buzzard overhead accents the chirpy treble below with it’s shade of bittersweet cawing. I wonder, beyond the innate urge to survive, do animals listen to one another for the pure joy of listening?
And there, amidst nature’s orchestra, walks homo sapiens: less equipped at hearing, less adept at listening, making sounds for the most part that are not out of necessity, the sound and pitch more about emotion than sensitivity to surroundings or purpose.
Have we become wholly unnatural?
The answer is thankfully, no, but collectively we may well have lost touch with the underlying vibration that is inherent to all of life. It turns out that learning to listen for that vibration, being in touch with that vibration, is the key to finding one’s own rhythm and song.
As a young girl I played the piano. I suppose I had some natural ability for hearing music, but in my youth the act of playing was not joyful. I learned to play for other people – at recitals, family gatherings, for my very strict German piano teacher – rather than for myself. It was a stressful experience for the most part, except when I played while no one listened, except for when I finally learned to play for myself.
This pattern of projecting outward rather than savouring inward has been a pattern that has carried me from a child into my adulthood, not because it served me well, but because it was what I knew, and somehow seemed to please the people around me, which brought me a sense of relief. The idea that I could simply be myself and serve others (while also serving myself) was never introduced to me as a child, but only appeared as an option much later in life.
Life seldom gives us an opportunity to reflect on our relationships – with our ‘self’, our body, the people in our life, the direction we have chosen for life itself. Sadly, these questions are not emphasised in school, but we often arrive to them only after having multiple ‘Talking Heads’ moments (“Is this my beautiful wife? Is this my beautfiul house? How did I get here?”). If nothing more, this 15 months have given many of us pause to ask questions, and hopefully, learn to listen to what life is telling us.
Practices like yoga and Rolfing are about intervening in the habits and patterns that may have served us in some way for a part of our life, but that are not contributing to a life of balance, ease and acceptance. The first step is learning to listen. Coming to hear and accept our own rhythm, tempo and pitch, observing emotion as it dances between and binds these elements together, becomes a song in and of itself. Of course, music is endless, there are countless variations on the basic themes, iterating, mashing up, creating dissonance and resolution. Like listening to bird song, identifying the various elements helps us to understand what we are hearing, it brings meaning to the journey.
Like a murmuration of starlings, we are but waves of congruency and opposition. The shape of the whole continually changes because each individual learns to play their part, for the collective, for themself. It is the interplay and balance between the two that keeps us in flight.