Welcome to the Taste and See: Experiencing God with Our Senses online retreat. Each Monday we’ll explore one of the senses as a way to encounter God. Today we consider the sense of hearing.
Thanks to technology, we have a lot of individual control over what we hear. We have favorite songs on our phones, podcasts we can tune into whenever we drive, and headphones to block out the conversation around us on an airplane. We are increasingly able to skip anything we don’t want to listen to, be it an uninspiring song or the flight attendant’s safety spiel. We can spend much of our time in a little cocoon of our favorite sounds.
This is nice, certainly, but perhaps it has a downside. It puts us at risk of insulating ourselves from the broader world. It can also prevent us from making happy discoveries of new songs or sounds we love. There’s something to be said for periodically ditching the personal playlist and simply listening to the things that are going on around us.
I tried this the other day, deciding not to put on my favorite songs as I worked on the computer. Instead, I tuned in to what I could hear through the open window. When I paid attention to what was out there, I realized that there was a great deal going on, even in my little corner of the neighborhood.
There was a siren far away in the distance, which made me momentarily ponder the fragility of life and the gift of people who come to help in times of crisis.
There were kids calling to each other as they played, a reminder of the joy of childhood and proof that in this technology-saturated age, kids still gather in front yards for tag and ball.
There were the chirps of assorted birds rustling and flapping in the trees, having their own conversation in their own language, always a cheerful sound.
There was the faraway blare of the train and its rumble down the tracks as it brought commuters home from work, a reminder of so many people out there trying to balance all the parts of their lives, just as I try to do.
We are fortunate to have so many choices for what we listen to, to have the technology to pick and choose. But sometimes, it helps to unplug from the old favorites and tune in to the broader world around us. Just a few moments without the earbuds or playlist can start our thoughts in new directions, sparking fresh insights and facilitating prayer. And we just may hear that still, small voice of God, calling us in ways we would otherwise miss.
Begin. Center yourself. Take three deep breaths and open yourself to God’s presence.
Give thanks. Thank God for music, for technology, for the ability to connect with others through our ears.
Review. Think of the things you chose to listen to today: songs, podcasts, radio stations. Reflect on why you like them and what they do to enhance your life.
Were there moments today when you chose to forgo the playlist and listen to something new? What prompted that? What did you hear?
Look ahead. Pay attention to your listening habits. Be alert to ways you can revise them to allow for surprises, for discovery, and for greater involvement with your environment.
Every day, take a time when you would normally be tuning into a song or show, and instead just listen to the world around you. What are the sounds you notice? Where do your thoughts go? Follow wherever they lead.
Don’t miss any of the posts in this retreat series. Subscribe to dotMagis (link in sidebar) to receive posts in your inbox. Go more in-depth with the themes of this retreat by reading Ginny Kubitz Moyer’s book Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses.