Monday, March 17, 2014

Hearing Voices

"A Still Small Voice"
'just before sunrise in the desert'-

People who claim that they are "hearing voices" are often diagnosed as suffering from some type of mental illness, and that may well be the case. Yet the stories about the great prophets, saints and wisdom teachers of all the major religious traditions tell of the many times when these great men and women "heard voices," and I don't think they were all mentally ill. So what are these stories all about?

Abraham heard the voice of God calling him and because he listened to it, the three great Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) were born.  And then there is the story about Moses who heard the voice of the Holy One out in the wilderness, and yet another story abut the prophet Elijah who listened to wind in a cave and in the wind he heard the "still small voice" of God.  The prophet Muhammad also heard the voice of God while living inside a desert cave.  Jesus went  out into the wilderness and he heard voices.  Mary, his mother heard the voice of an angel and so did shepherds in a field on the night Jesus is born. Francis of Assisi heard a voice telling him to rebuild the church, and Mahatma Gandhi talked about the voices he had heard as he engaged in his mission as a servant of justice and peace.

I actually believe these great prophets and teachers did indeed hear voices - not human voices whispering or thundering actual words, but voices nonetheless.  The stories about "hearing voices" are powerful metaphors about people with uncluttered minds and open hearts who pay attention to what is being revealed to them when they are fully awake and fully present in the moment.

Every moment is a sacred moment. Every moment is charged with the energy of Holy Presence.  The stories about the great prophets, saints, and teachers of old "hearing voices" teach each and every one of us that we can also "hear voices" when we also are awake and paying attention to the the revelations of the moment.

I "hear voices" every day in my life out here in the desert.

My favorite times of the day are just after the sun goes down when it is not yet dark, and then again just before the sun comes up when it is not yet fully bright. I have been thinking about why these are my favorite times. Is it because of the array of colors in the sky silhouetted against the mountains are so exquisitely beautiful at sunset and sunrise? 

As I reflect on it, while the beauty I "see" with my eyes draws me into those moments, what I "hear" with my ears is even more of a magnet for me.

Before moving out here, I was surrounded by palm trees. The street where we used to live was lined with pam trees, our backyard had palm trees in it.  However, I never paid any attention to those trees and to the sound the wind makes when it blows through them. 

 Since I've been out here in the desert, I do nothing but pay attention to that sound.  

In the desert, the wind always picks up just as the sun goes down, and it picks up again just as the sun is about to rise in the morning.  Sometimes the wind is little more than a gentle breeze, sometimes a roaring gale. 

The sound of the wind blowing through the palm trees around my house is a sacred sound, so hauntingly mystical that I simply cannot put into words.  The sound is indeed the voice of "God."  

Every evening as the sun goes down and in the morning when the sun is about to rise, I go outside and pay attention. I listen to that sound.  I hear voices. It is my favorite time of day. 

The wind in the palm trees blows gently this morning - a still small voice. The voice of Holy Presence is singing a song of life to me, assuring me that I am not alone and that everything that exists is "One."

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