March 25 – The Ear as Petal – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

The ear is only a petal that grows from the heart. When we hear each other, it all becomes a garden. 

Just what does it mean to listen? We have all exhibited the remarkable mental dividedness whereby we choose not to pay attention, and yet when asked, we can recite word for word what has been said.

Listening arises from a deeper place, and it seems we can only hear the living to the extent that we truly have lived, only understand pain and joy to the extent that we have allowed ourselves to be touched by life. If the ear grows from the heart like a petal, then as roots absorb rain and sun until a simple flower opens, the heart must absorb both tears and joy in order to sprout an ear that can truly hear.

I remember, years before cutting my feet in search of a path, sitting on my immigrant grandmother’s hospital bed, watching her wince as they put cause on her bedsore heels. I remember, years before I saved my gold retriever from drowning, watching a coworker cry for his dead dog, trying to understand how he could love an animal more than a person. I remember, years before having to start my life over, racing down a farmhouse road in the middle of the night to see my father in law’s proud eyes just as the barn he built thirty years before burning to the ground.

It was only later that I felt their pain, and even more, their true joy in caring for things. To be sure, we do not have to experience the same things to receive each other, but we do have to experience what is ours to live through before life will show its roots.

What does it take to truly listen? The breakdown of everything that parades between our hearts. If I dare to hear you, I will feel you like the sun and grow in your direction, and you in mine. For when we hear each other, it all becomes a garden. It all becomes edible.

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