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“Can You Hear Me Now?”

...or have we merely stopped listening?

Largely taboo as little as ten years ago, nearly everyone now has a cell phone (regardless of their credit history). This highly successful transition to constant contact has affected our lives in profound ways. Does this adaptation serve us?

Zen, the essence of being, is a quality of sensitive listening. Receiving messages that travel on vibrations of intentions is a practice. Mundane routines transmute into rituals of spiritual offering when infused with reverence. Chop wood, carry water is the practice of listening to the inner/outer communion during natural activities. “Drop a pebble in a lake and consider the ripples affecting the sacred stillness.”

Sensitizing to the implications of our actions is becoming increasingly difficult in a time of voices voices everywhere... and not a thought to think. Once sanctified in the modest, enclosed phone booth, our private conversations are now public performances. The person beside me on a train, the one alone in a coffee shop, the one who’s waiting in line at the post office and the one sitting in my outer office... all talking, often loudly, to no one there.

There is so much conversation that is bouncing off our encroaching personal boundaries that we can barely hear our conscious thoughts. What hope do we have of deciphering our intuitive guidance from the din of unconscious verbal clutter? We now dump boulders into wading pools and ignore the implications of the waves we create.

The essence of moving toward and aspiring to an ideal is practice. In yoga we most frequently we think of practicing postures. However, practice may refer to any process which enables our exploration of action and listening. Applying effort toward that which is beyond completion, creates a suspension through which we may observe our most intimate responses. We discover the hidden ghosts of our drives, desires and dilemmas. The space between what we revere and what we express is our holy and intangible temple.

There seems to be apprehension regarding the quiet coefficient. We’re afraid of hearing ourselves. Perhaps, if we listened, we’d need to lose momentum and shift direction? In a pattern similar to squelching feelings through drugs, alcohol and overeating, we’ve created a new anesthesia... constant calling. The habit of extroverted excess restricts our inner availability. “Get me anytime on my cell phone,” translates into, “Sorry, no one’s home inside.”

Before this incessant craze of talk to anyone - anywhere - anytime, there actually was time to listen to ourselves. Reveries while walking, contemplations in quiet cafes, and the luxury of reading in a polite passenger car seem to be sentimental reflections of a bygone era... Oh to be back in the early 90’s......

Lurking beneath this superficial sentiment is evidence of personal denial. During the recent past, we planned for the unexpected. We would acknowledge the likelihood of traffic delays. We would even employ backup plans should the unforeseen occur.

Now our cell phones negate our ownership in timely arrivals, commitment to schedules and physical presence. By throwing the cellular pebble into our pond of plans, we deny the essence of connection. “I got held up, and I won’t be able to meet you.” As long as the call goes through, we don’t hold ourselves or our relationships accountable for unnecessary changes in plans. Appointments often become disappointments. To what degree are unacknowledged disappointments responsible for rising rates of depression?

“Sure, with my cell phone I can order my groceries and have them waiting for me when I get home.” The process of making dough and baking bread integrated synthesis between actions and results. “Oh don’t worry, I’ll catch up with you while I eat my sandwich in the car on my way home.”

Creating stillness, listening, becoming... it’s still possible. It’s just far more difficult when we participate in being always available and never truly present. What do we hear as we responsibly carry our carryover minutes in our pockets?

by Toni Zuper
Alternative Healing
Center City, Philadelphia

published in Yoga Living -- July 2004 issue