November 17, 2018 On Listening

This time of year marks the season 14 years ago when I woke up deaf in one ear. Totally deaf. I tried to walk normally but could not. My balance was completely off. Vertigo, which I had never experienced before, had taken over as a new companion and it was awful.

The long and short of this episode is that I regained hearing sometime in January. it seems that this condition comes and goes based on my level of stress. Ah. The body is so wise.

During the interim time of being off balance, I had to make adjustments as to how I moved through the world. Getting up, sitting down, walking very slowly, using walls or tables or chairs for balance if needed. It was so very odd. I gained enormous appreciation for people who live with vertigo every day.

Because I truly could not maintain my work schedule, I had more time to think and pray about the message my body was telling me. All I had to do was listen.

Sometimes a creative project helps me make sense of my world so I playfully dialogued with my deaf ear and wrote a ‘Little Ear Book’ in response to having listened to her (my ear). She shared with me her struggle to continue to listen while there was so much movement and stress in my life. In fact, she admitted that more of my body wanted to go on strike, but she vowed to catch my attention. And she did! I loved the book so much that I had my girlfriends read it and write their own messages of encouragement. Just like a (y)ear book!

At the time I went deaf, I was serving on a diocesan staff in NYC, running a mission (small church) 60 miles north of NYC, running retreats and workshops throughout metropolitan NY and managing a household 30 miles north of the city. Clearly my little ear was telling me it was time to make a change.

So I met with the bishop and asked if I could reconfigure my position so I would be traveling less. The answer was “No.” I told him that I would be starting a national search that would enable me to return to parish ministry and reclaim a clear center once again.

My husband was so supportive. I ended up being called to a parish in Western MA that was ready for a new phase of growth and formation. I continued the practice of listening and whenever I felt at all dizzy, recalibrated my pace.

Deep listening is a rare commodity in our culture right now. People are too busy, on the move, overcommitted. One of the things I love most about being a life coach is having the free space just to listen to another human being. People’s lives, their experiences of joy and sorrow, successes and obstacles continue to fill me with awe and respect.

How could you begin to listen more deeply—

to yourself

to others

to someone you love but have not had the time for recently…

Take 5 minutes a day to start. Today.

Peace.

Hannah