The Lost Art of Listening


The world was once a place of deep silences and stillness. And in those silences Nature spoke to us and we heard. Like animals heading to high ground before a tsunami we too have the ability to hear the voice of nature around us – but most of us have forgotten how to use it. We are so bombarded with sound and distraction in our daily lives that we have turned off our natural ability to hear – to hear our own still small voice when it speaks to us, or the silent voices of the life that surrounds and supports and nurtures us. Once upon a time we treasured and revered the natural world and knew how to listen to its wisdom. We survived over the millennia because we knew how to listen and cooperate with Nature. Nature fed and clothed and sheltered and healed us.

Then in the course of just a few hundred years – a blink of an eye in the course of human history – most of us have forgotten that we ever knew how to listen. We have been slowly trained to dishonor and distrust silence and the still small voice within – to disbelieve our natural connection to Nature and to one another. Our lives and brains are filled with meaningless distractions. When was the last time you just sat silently listening to and observing Nature? Many of us would get antsy and bored after 5 minutes! Most of us seem to have lost this natural ability. This shows up in our relationships with one another as well as in our loss of connection to Nature.

trail7Materialism and science have become our gods and unless science can measure and explain something to present material standards it is discounted as imagination (which is fine for children – but not adults, it seems!). Consciousness cannot be measured and explained by the science of today and so it is explained away as a phenomena of the brain, in spite of a multitude of evidence that consciousness is not “local” or attached in any way to our body. So, of course the notion that we could communicate with the plants in our gardens and wild spaces is often relegated to the ranks of silly “new age nonsense” ideas.

Gardeners, as a group, I find, are more tuned in to the consciousness of Nature than the average person. They spend so many quiet hours lovingly tending and nurturing plants and soil, being more closely tuned in to weather and the wild life around them – insect and animal. The awareness of our deep interconnectedness grows over time as does the realization of our dependence on other forms of life – most we cannot even see, like the microbes in our soil and in our gut.

“On a fundamental level our relationship with plants is completely symbiotic: We use their oxygen and they use our carbon dioxide.”… “They create the air we breathe and the food we eat. Nothing in our life is possible without plants.”

I discovered this summer, in the midst of a personally challenging time, that sitting on a stump somewhere in the midst of my woodland – just sitting and being – without thinking, brought me back to my center, gave me back my inner peace. I could not accomplish that sitting indoors – or even in my garden. It was the trees around me – the calm wildness of it all that did it for me. I feel incredibly grateful for my good fortune in having a small patch of woodland around me to go to when I need that level of peace. And there is something about the fact that I share it with wild creatures that makes it even more powerful.

creek1There is a mama deer who has a permanently damaged back foot. She discovered a level of safety here a few years back and now raises her yearly brood on my property. I feel that “safety” as well. It’s a sort of spiritual safety. And the trees feel like my friends… I have lived with them and walked among them daily for 12 years now. I do chi gung among them and collect the energy they so generously share. And always feel comforted when I am in distress of any kind. The garden is filled with “my children” that I planted and care for. The woodland trees are my friends and mentors. I may not be able to tell you in words what they say to me but I can tell you in feelings and most importantly in the innate wisdom they share.



  1. This is partly why urban forestry is so important, even if it is unnatural and synthetic. It just does something for otherwise less healthy urban environments.


    • I so agree! I think trees are healing and nurturing no matter what the setting. I just heard that 50% of humanity now lives in cities! This makes urban forestry even more important.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just yesterday, I was arguing with ‘environmentalists’ who do not understand that San Jose was formerly chaparral, and that Los Angeles was formerly desert; and that there are more trees in both places than there had ever been. I will not say that there is anything natural about them being there now, but I do know that they are an asset.


  2. Since we have turned so many forests into deserts or farmland or housing developments, wherever we can plant trees will likely go toward making up for the loss… so I’m all for it.


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