Members of the staff have been watching closely the water of the pond, worrying about several ropey, green strands of algae. Because the waterfall has been temporarily blocked, the bright orange goldfish gather around the submerged bubblers, gills flashing as they gulp for oxygen.
At our staff retreat, Sr. Maria begins by reminding us of the time when Cranaleith’s natural springs were once thought crushed, lost—until those digging the pond uncovered two fresh springs—sudden, gushing geysers of water. She pauses her storytelling and invites each of us to pour water from the clear glass pitcher into the round bowl sitting on the table. She asks us to touch the surface of the water, swirl and play a bit, then touch our wet fingertips to our ears—a symbolic way to remind us to listen. Sitting in the quiet together with my colleagues, I am temporarily self-conscious, but as the cool drop of water evaporates from my earlobes, I feel a flash of clarity. Listening deeply opens us to awareness and wholeness—transforming a staff meeting about strategic planning initiatives, budget forecasts, and personnel decisions into something…more.
And this “deep listening?” It has been happening world-wide for thousands of years.
A member of the oldest living culture and people on this planet, Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr is a world-renowned Aboriginal elder from the Northern Territory of Australia who served as the principal of a Nauiu (Daly River) Catholic primary school. She offers to all the unique gift of the Aboriginal people—a gift she describes as a “special quality.” “In our language,” she writes, “this quality is called dadirri (da-did-ee). It is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness… There are deep springs within each of us. Within this deep spring, which is the very Spirit of God, is a sound. The sound of Deep calling to Deep…. It is something like what you call ‘contemplation.’ When I experience dadirri, I am made whole again. I can sit on the riverbank or walk through the trees; even if someone close to me has passed away, I can find my peace in this silent awareness” [Source: Miriamrosefoundation.org].
I am writing this newsletter while listening to my neighbors’ raucous fireworks, an explosive, noisy, Independence Day celebration that shreds the silence of the woods surrounding my home, and I am aware of the relief I feel when, sometime after midnight, the quiet displaces the gunpowder-tinged air. I find myself suddenly longing for the soft voices of my daughters, friends, colleagues, you—and for the warm, humid air by the waterfall’s edge near the pond.
In celebration of Cranaleith’s 25th Gala Anniversary Year, we are dedicating our programming to the special quality of “Deep Listening.” Beginning with this Friday’s program: “Discovering Gold: A Day of Deep Listening to Our Memories,” everyone is invited to hear and share the stories and memories of our experiences of Cranaleith–“touchstones” of the sacred experience that binds us all.
I hope you can join us. Then? Stand at the pond, watch the flashing sunlight reflect in green waters, reach to touch its surface with your fingertips. Find Miriam-Rose’s “inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness.” Breathe in the cool, clear waters of peace. Experience dadirri.
Dawn L. Hayward