Sounds of Silence: A New Way of Listening

“Listen to silence. It has so much to say.” ~Rumi

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

I watched a wonderful movie recently called In Pursuit of Silence. The film has been called “a meditative exploration of our relationship with silence, sound and the impact of noise on our lives”. It opens with 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence, with the image of a lone tree in a cornfield and the barely perceptible sound of a gentle breeze moving through the cornstalks. That’s in honor of John Cage and his conceptual orchestral piece from the 1950’s, in which conductor and musicians are to maintain 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence.

Cage was exploring the idea that all sounds are music, and he believed that we need to learn new ways of listening. In speaking about the premiere of the piece, Cage said, “There’s no such thing as silence. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.” [one can only imagine!]

So, the film got me thinking. It seems to me that what is needed in the world today is for more people to practice listening in the kind of silence that allows for meaningful connections to be made (connection to self, to others, and to Divine Wisdom) so that understanding may arise. There’s a great scene in the film that shows footage of some recent news talk shows where several political commentators are talking boisterously over one another so vehemently that you can’t possibly understand what anyone is saying. We need to learn new ways of listening, and of being with silence.

So, what can we hear in the silence? I feel connected to the mysteries of the cosmos when I am immersed in the silence of nature, for starters. Like gazing at the vast night sky on a starry night by a mountain lake. Or experiencing the stillness in the midst a gentle snow fall. Standing in a sea of tiny white flakes as they fall softly on the trees or on the ground, one is wrapped in a blanket of silence that feels like eternity.

What else can we hear in the spaciousness of silence? When we retreat from the outer noise and enter into a sacred silence, we invite an inner listening to the still small voice and we may hear our heart speak its truth, its joy, its sorrow, its needs and desires, and the deep wisdom within. We connect with some authentic truth at the core of ourselves, and from this place we connect more authentically with others. Or, in silently gazing into another’s eyes, we may hear beyond what words could ever express and connect heart to heart.

If we are silent and we listen very closely, we may hear the poetry in our soul. I love fridge word magnets. They coax my inner poet to come out of hiding and play. I’m always surprised and delighted by what will emerge onto my fridge. My favorite random word creation is:

“Celebrate poetry, said the ocean. Listen to the vast night sky!”

Yes, indeed, the ocean has much to say, if we listen carefully. May we all learn new ways of listening and appreciate the gifts of the sounds of silence.

Photo by Joanne Lefferts: Rowing the Lower Ausable Lake

This entry was posted on October 29, 2017. 1 Comment

Interfaith Spiritual Direction ~ An Invitation

“Spirituality is the art of homecoming” ~John O’Donohue

Some of you may know that I have embarked on a program of study in Interfaith Spiritual Direction at the Chaplaincy institute in Berkeley. To fulfill the practicum requirement as a student intern, I will be offering free Spiritual Direction sessions to someone willing to meet with me once a month for 12 months, beginning in November. If you know someone who might be interested in embarking on this adventure with me, please forward this invitation.

We live in challenging times, in a world filled with noise and distraction, where it’s easy to lose touch with what is most essential. The greatest gift we can give to ourselves, and to the world, is to become centered in our own spirituality. Spiritual Direction offers the space for exploration and discovery of our own spiritual dimensions, and helps us to deepen our connection with the divine.

As we share the events of our lives with a Spiritual Director–our joys, our challenges, our deeper longings–being witnessed in the space of deep listening, we connect more deeply with our own sacred wisdom. We pay attention to the still small voice within and become aware of the ways in which divine presence is active in our lives, guiding us toward healing and wholeness, calling forth our highest creative expression.

My own spiritual journey has been rich and varied. It has led me to the study of dreams, becoming a certified dream work facilitator; study of the Enneagram; training as a Prayer Practitioner in a Center for Spiritual Living; and deeply transformative work with the 12 Steps. I have a passion for this work and feel it is a sacred honor to be a companion to others on their spiritual journey.

If you are interested in journeying together in free Spiritual Direction sessions, or know someone who might be, please contact me:

Joanne Lefferts • Phone: (415) 686-1439 • Email: joannelefferts@gmail.com

I look forward to the journey!

This entry was posted on October 15, 2017. 6 Comments

The Great Discovery: Who Do We Think We Are?

“We are penetrated, suffused, caressed, cell by cell and synapse by synapse, with the same love that set the galaxies to spinning.” ~Danna Faulds, from Go In and In: Poems from the Heart of Yoga

“What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.” ~Eckhart Tolle

I’ve always felt drawn to the poetry and teachings of the mystics and so I am appreciating the opportunity to explore more deeply in a class on World Mysticism. Last week we were introduced to the teachings of the Hindu mystic Ramana Maharshi, an enlightened being who taught the importance of self-inquiry as the way to discover true nature. To know oneself, he taught, ask yourself the question “Who am I” continuously. In this ‘peeling of the onion skin’, one finds a deeper truth, that we are not our body, we are not our thoughts and feelings, or our ideas of who we are. We are so much more.

This is a powerful inquiry, these three little words: Who am I? I share with you what came to me in contemplating this question:

Who Am I?

Mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, friend.

Lover of walks in the woods, tender of gardens and the soul.

Dreamer of dreams, seeker of Truth and Light.

Lover of art and music and song.

Writer, poet, appreciator of beauty without and within.

Child of my ancestors–product of my family, my country, my gender, my race.

Nature and nurture have had their sway. Ideas of self tumble like ever-changing

patterns in a kaleidoscope of color. Emotions ebb and flow like the tides.

Who is the voice in my head, who is the commander of this ship?

Am I one I, or many? Who am I at the core?

Look deeper, the Wise One said. Breathe. Close your eyes. Awaken your inner sight.

Let the breath take you there.

Who AM I?

Ah! There is more! I am a spark of the Divine!

I am an emanation of the Divine Creative Source, a part of all that is!

I live in eternity. My being is nourished by the Love out of which all creation flows.

I am in the sunlight shining on the leaves of the trees, I am the sky, I am the ocean wave,

I am the song of the sparrow, I am the eagle soaring free, I am one with all of humanity.

I am part of the holographic whole, a glistening jewel in Indra’s net.

The Love that gives birth to the Universe continuously gives life breath to me.

Who am I?

I am an inseparable part of the field of LOVE that unites us all;

I am here to learn to give and receive boundless Love and radiant Joy!

May the unfolding begin…

~In abundant gratitude for the journey

Photo: Rose unfolding, by Joanne Lefferts

This entry was posted on July 16, 2017. 4 Comments

Waking Up to the Fullness of Who We Are

“There’s more to us than we realize. We’re capable of so much more than we allow ourselves to believe.” ~Queen Latifah

“Who was I before the alarm clock rang? Who was the stranger I was in my dreams?” ~from Dawna Markova’s I Will Not Die An Unlived Life

When I look at a flower, really take in the beauty of its form–the vibrant colors, silky smooth petals and exquisite complex design–it takes my breath away. Such a delicate thing and yet hardy and resilient enough to withstand all kinds of weather. A little miracle really. A flower like this makes me believe in a Divine Creator–an infinite creative intelligence so vast and uncontainable that it bursts forth in flowers to remind us of the beauty and creative intelligence that reside within our own beings. Love that is more vast than we can imagine is what made this flower, and we are made of this love too.

I think we start out in life knowing our connection to this source of infinite love and beauty and uncontainable joy, and then over time, life influences slowly chip away at our connection to our essential nature, and we forget who we really are. There is a falling asleep and a forgetting. We learn adaptive behaviors in order to fit in to our family environment, to feel safe, to feel loved, to feel like we belong. Certain parts of us get left behind, forgotten,or are not given the opportunity to develop. A personality develops and we come to believe that that is who we are. We forget that we are so much more than that.

Thank goodness for the spiritual paths and traditions that offer teachings and practices to guide us on our journey as we attempt to wake up from the trance of life and remember our connection to All That Is, and remember who we really are. Thank goodness for the guidance we receive when we listen to the still small voice inside, and when we pay attention to our dreams. I LOVE the quote above, from Dawna Markova: “Who was I before the alarm clock rang? Who was the stranger I was in my dreams?” Our dream dramas are like mirrors, whose characters reflect back to us those lost parts of ourselves that are wanting to be seen and heard–and they also reflect the beauty and creative intelligence that illumine our souls.

I love that moment just between sleep and wakefulness, that liminal space between the worlds, where part of our consciousness is still floating in the magical, mystical realm of the dream world where all manner of things are possible, and we haven’t yet dropped back into our logical, analytical mind with our set ideas about the way things are. In that moment we’re a little less certain about our identity. In that moment there is an opening where the Light may enter in. We might be open to consider, what ELSE might be possible in my world? What new perspectives might I consider? Who might I be if I let go of certain beliefs and attitudes?

My all-time favorite book, ever since I was about 10 years old, is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Talk about the transformative power of dreams! This miserable, bitter, crotchety old man Ebenezer Scrooge is utterly and completely transformed when he is visited in his dreams by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. He gets to review his life, the disappointments and pain of loss that caused his heart to turn to stone. He gets to see, and feel, the effects of his callous disregard for other human beings. He is scared straight by the specter of what is to come if he does not change his ways. The dreams open his heart and his mind. He wakes literally a new man.

An absolute joy to watch is the 1951 version of the film starring Alastair Sim, especially the scene of Ebenezer’s waking from the final dream, where he leaps and dances about breathlessly with the giddiness of a school boy, his eyes beaming with uncontainable joy. The scene in the book reads: “I don’t know what to do! cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath. I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy, I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world!” He goes forth into life with a generous heart overflowing with love and gratitude.

I’m pondering these questions for myself: What ELSE might be here, in my essence, in my soul, that wants to blossom forth and express in the world? Who might I be if I let go of certain beliefs and attitudes? What holds me back from loving more generously? So I am listening to the still small voice inside, and paying close attention to the ‘strangers that are me’ in my dreams. I am reassured that there is an abiding presence, a source of infinite love, beauty and wisdom within, that guides my way, and my heart overflows with gratitude.

Photo by Joanne Lefferts: Passion Flower

This entry was posted on May 11, 2017. 3 Comments