A guest post by Danika Starrharrt
There are days I find myself passing an array of songbirds without even hearing them. Birds are simply everywhere on the springiest of days, and me? I can be too busy thinking, THINKING… worrisome thoughts are blaringly loud, and the more important the worries seem, the more they drown out the present moment around me, as if a worry is more real than reality.
There was a day I could even walk by a whole symphony playing and not stop to notice. I was an 80-hour per week musician. Instruments, soaring melodies, and gripping harmonies were all common place to me. Today, I am a 168-hour per week mom, and I only dream of standing in the middle of a symphony. Today, my ears are full of the sounds of giggles, kisses, and feet running pitter-patter — the very sounds I used to dream of while I was standing in the middle of a symphony.
“Tune in!” my heart hears, just like the conductor’s call of old. I pause.
When I stop my restlessness, I stop worrying, and the cause for my worries begin to seem less and less relevant. Suddenly I can notice my daughter’s voice fading up in to my consciousness. She’s singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. She knows this song well because she’s heard me teach it to students so many times. I have a lot of respect for the enduring nature of this tune, yet I can also get pretty weary of it. But through her voice it now somehow sounds as sweet as the first birdsong after a long, blizzardy winter.
I decide to look in my daughter’s eyes and let her know I’m listening – really listening. Her eyes shine, and she babbles on. To me, her tone is clarion. When I hear with my heart, it’s more than a 16-month-old voice I hear; I can truly hear a symphony. It washes over me and refreshes me.
How can the same small person who makes my body feel so tired be the same one who encourages my heart toward more strength? There’s nothing like motherhood to open up a circle like that. It’s when I stop to listen deeply that I notice it.
A child comes into the world open and ready to be filled. When they begin to speak, they begin to speak from what’s inside them – whatever’s been put there. When I listen to my child, I learn so much about the world I live in and the world I’ve created for her. What goes into her so easily comes out. It’s a circle that runs before my eyes. It’s a gift that teaches me what I couldn’t hear otherwise.
If she is squawking ungracefully, it’s most likely because I’ve been stressed myself (no trying to hide it – kids know). If she runs to me with a big hug, it’s because she feels so much love inside that it’s time to overflow. That love comes into my heart, back into hers, back into mine, round and round.
The modern world is full of noise; we can often feel bombarded. It’s no wonder we’re trained to tune out half of what we hear. But there may be more that’s worth listening to than we think. A child does exactly what they see their parents do. If a parent doesn’t listen to their child, the child won’t listen to their parent.
A child can learn to listen because they “have to,” but then they may miss the joy of fully accepting any wisdom their parent may have to share. Similarly, a parent might learn to listen to their child as a way to train their child to listen, but then, deep in their heart, they also may miss some of the fresh wisdom only a child can give.
Wisdom, like love, is not one-sided; it, too, flows in a circle, where each speaker is a also a listener and a learner. Maybe it’s even more than a circle — a spiral, just like that golden ratio creates wherever life is found. It grows and grows. It spills over and flows out for all to hear.
Anyone can make sound. But it’s not necessarily music. No matter the skill of a musician, they cannot bring a song through an instrument unless they’re first able to hear that song in their head. And to get that song out to others in the way the musician hears it, they have to correctly space out the rests (silence) and the notes (sound). A “song” can be a piece for an orchestra to play, or it can be a life “song.” Either way, one must first stop and then hear, all with the intention of understanding.
I can listen with my ears. I can listen with my eyes. I can listen with a touch, and I can listen with my heart.
Today I choose to hear the heart of what’s being spoken, and sometimes I stay for an extra moment wherever I find a particularly nourishing collection of sounds. Suddenly, my daily world can come alive in symphonic colors. I hear a pitter-patter and a tugging rustle at my side. It’s my little girl reaching up to grab my hand. I grab hers back, and we dance round and round in circles.
~ Danika Starrharrt blogs as a mom, recording artist, and music educator. As a songwriter and lover of positive community, she creates children’s books & CDs and helps fellow moms start Song Circles in their own towns. Come connect with her at www.songbugs.com ~