There is a beautiful Irish proverb that’s says Éist le fuaim na habhann agus gheobhfaidh tú breac – Listen to the sound of the river and you will catch a trout. Now maybe it is about how to get your supper but it is also about the wisdom of being present, of using the senses in pursuit of a goal, of attuning to the environment, of participating with real perception. It is a prompt to consciously listen. It is like the best of the Seanfhocail, a zen-like gem.
Conscious listening is not just hearing sounds but listening to them. Mindfully listening to music, the dawn course or even the hum of your refrigerator is activating. Sometimes music can be associated with emotions, or songs have a resonance with your life and that can bring you to recollection and thought – so for an exercise try a new piece of music – something you can listen to for the first time, that you can explore and discover and hook a fresh trout.
We may hear the dawn chorus on the way to bed or the way to work but do we listen to it, tune in and fully experience it? It is not prerecorded, it is live, happening as it is only in that moment, yesterday’s one was different, tomorrows will be different again. Listen to it next opportunity, be in the moment with it, hear its originality, find its rhythms and patterns, let the awe be and be with it.
Even the hum of the refrigerator or the sounds of traffic can enliven, if listened too rather than just heard. They may not seem to be awe inspiring sounds but they provide an opportunity to become conscious, present and alert to what is occurring right now. The focus is clarity. The clarity is pureness of the moment. Yes even the hum can be an Om mani padme hum (If I can borrow a little joy from my Buddhist brothers and sisters).
You don’t have to select a sound, just stop right now and listen. Where ever you are, just stop and listen for 1-2 minutes to the stream around you. Even in a seemingly silent room there is a flow of sound, the goings on in the space, the outside noises in the distance, no matter how gentle or rapid the flow, there is flow.
Don’t judge or analyse the sounds, simply hear them, fully hear them. If thoughts arise let them pass and return to listening – become conscious that you are listening and hearing – this is experiencing the real world. It may be noisy clatter or the subtle sounds that show that silence is not empty but alive.
Éist le fuaim, it may be a soft whir in the distance, it may be your beating heart. Experience that – experience being alive. That moment is mindful awareness. That is a caught trout.