'Lifeways - Making Space To Listen'

Thursday, 01 August 2019 by Sue Peat

Jupiter and Saturn were waiting for us. There they were, shining down on us every night from the clear skies over Emerson College, visible to even the most ammeter star gazer with the expert help of John Meeks. He explained that they are making their way silently across the sky on their individual paths to a meeting planned for the winter solstice, 21st December 2020. We wondered what they might be preparing to say to each other and what they might say to us of their journey. But of course they remain silent – and maybe offer us an invitation to listen with our understanding and our eyes. We are left contemplating what we might say to them.

The Lifeways team and participants had also been planning their journeys and were delighted to meet during the joyful babble that is registration. Workshops booked. Forms filled in. Sun hats remembered!! Many questions were asked and answers offered. Which room am I in? Where is it? Where do I pitch my tent? Which workshops have I booked? Did I remember to tell you about my child’s allergy? And so, starting in the heat and under a bright blue sky, the weeks not-so-silent meetings that made lifeways 2019 were in the last stage of preparation.

Next the conversations catching up with news from Lifeways friends over supper. Then listening to the workshop leaders sharing what they would be offering during the week ahead. What a choice it was ! What glorious opportunities there were going to be to practise creating space within ourselves to listen.

Making space to listen to exactly what we might ask.....?

Well, that question could be answered as we made our way through the beautiful Emerson campus for the first breakfast of the week. There was a chance to listen carefully to the water running through the flow forms - and hearing more than just sound. Then a chance to listen carefully to the clink of spoons on bowls and the ‘ping’ of the toasters – offering us the possibility of hearing something more than just ‘everyday noise’. Listening carefully to the wind in the trees, the singing of the birds and the sound of children playing together could reveal something of the inner nature of the makers of the sounds. Then, as on every Lifeways morning, the sound of the morning songs drawing us together means our day is really begun. Maybe we remember the tunes (and even the words) of songs sung last year, or perhaps the melodies evoke a dim memory of songs we once heard and sung together in a previous incarnation.

Then on to our groups and workshops. There was a real opportunity to listen, understand and put into practise what we have heard. If you are very little, then you have a group leader to listen to – and hope that the parent you brought with you is listening too! If you are a camper your listening has brought you new life skills. You leave knowing how to set up camp in the forest, how to build a fire and how to work as a team with newfound colleagues. Perhaps you might even have learned how well your parents will listen to a request for ice cream money during the afternoons on the lawn!

For the adults the listening opportunities were multiple. Listen to a story - then learn to tell one (well). Listen to instructions from a basket maker - then make a basket that the bottom will not fall out of. Listen to your inner voice and discover aspects of yourself that you have never understood – until you and others saw them in the doll you’re making. Listen to the wise words and ancient wisdom of philosophers and poets - then experience how life is enriched by entering into the experience of others. Then go a little further – listen to words and the sounds that form them. Listen to how the sounds come together in different languages. Experience the gesture of a sound and a word. Take this into yourself, pause for a silent moment to let it live in you, then respond.

The lifeways ‘harvest’ held on the last day, where the participants share something of their experience of the week was a fantastic opportunity to put our enhanced listening skills into practise and to experience how listening with our ears (and more) really is a vital step on the path of spiritual development. Our conference ended with a picture brought to us from nature by Roger Druitt. If you hold a ripe apple up to your ear and gently shake it you will hear the pips rattle. The apple has created a space within it for the seeds. We can experience the Ego is a space within us that holds the seed of the future.

Let it be heard that lifeways 2020 will be held at Emerson College from July 26th – August 1st and that this is a conference for men, women and children where ‘doing Anthroposophy’ is the focus. Keep an eye on the newsletter and on the Emerson Webb site for the details, and have an ear ready for the 2020 theme!