Someone Who Hears You


  A friend is turning sixty soon. My tribute is to say that she is 'someone who hears you.

 Or at least, hears me! But I would not be surprised to hear that many others have felt similarly 'heard', which is to say 'understood,' in her presence. She 'hears you.' She is very good at 'hearing' what other beings are trying to express! 

 To 'hear', which is to 'really understand,' my friend takes her characteristic stance which is to pause, not to pounce. She listens with a lazer-like focus.   She allows for silence and will not fill it with chatter. She hesitates to speak but when she does, the words are usually a very accurate rephrasing of what you've tried to convey.  

 Except that, sometimes the playback of the words you've fumbled to express  have now been taken to a higher plane. My friend has found a way to hear you more than you've heard yourself. 

 I've sometimes said to her in astonishment:  'Is that what I said?  I guess so. But I didn't understand it that deeply. You've crystallized what was foggy.  You've clarified what was vague. You've fine-tuned me by your ability to really hear me.’  

 This is a most tremendous gift - to hear another human being. To hear the other more deeply than he's been able to hear himself.   

 An instance of this level of 'being heard' happened early in the life of Joseph Parker, a nineteenth century British Congregationalist preacher known for wisdom and eloquence. He received the gift of 'being heard' from his father and mother. 

 What were they like, these parents who were able to hear and understand the highest, deepest and best in their own son? 

 Jo Parker describes his father as "fierce and gentle, with passionateness burning to madness, yet with deepest love of prayer;  no namby-pamby speaker weighing words as if afraid of them; hating lies as he hated hell itself - with him every known man was an angel or a fiend.”  (Joseph Parker,Tyne Chylde: My Life and Teaching, p. 9

 In other words, his father possessed the gift of a penetrating discernment - "with him every known man was an angel or a fiend."  Thus for his father, "a lie was no slip of the tongue, it was notorious, scandalous, diabolical, infamous, and infernal." 

 How did others relate to this sharply discerning being? Says Parker: "A terrible man to people who lived in another zone and spoke a soft and milky language; but a very Hercules and hero to those could play with tigers and hunt with wolves." 

 "I see him now", says the Jo Parker, "with a gait that might have suggested the proprietorship of the entire solar system."  What is it that such a man will hear and understand in his own son? We shall soon see! But now his mother.

 One of the first things Jo Parker said about his mother was that she was always "seeing everything without looking." That is, hers was an extra-sensory way of seeing, an intuitive perceiving, not bound by 'mere facts.

 "My want," says Parker, "was to sit near her with paper and pencil in hand, and to get her to make one line of a hymn that I might try to add three lines to it." No excitement known to boys was equal to that high joy.”  

 One thinks immediately of all of the other things that might interest a young boy. This boy's chief passion was the use of the imagination to create inspiring words!  

 Jo Parker then recalls that memorable moment when "one verse struck awe into the minds of my neighbours, and made them look at with me with pride touched reverence. That verse was shown to the minister, and he, in excess of pastoral zeal, made rash predictions concerning the rhymester." 

 "The father said nothing, but ordered it to be kept and shown to every visitor, and every visitor rose or fell in his estimation according to the view taken of that particular verse.

 I love that! The father would size up someone's character based on his ability to comprehend his son's one line of poetry.  

 Jo Parker goes on to say that "all the neighbours heard it, and one said it ought to be put in a hymn-book; another was worldly enough to "bet" that some day I would make a whole hymn; others were struck dumb with amazement, only hinting that they who lived longest would see most." 

 My Lord,  if you've had parents like this and turn out badly, well, you really have nobody to blame!  You've been given everything, as Joseph Parker was.  

 Early on, the parents of Joseph Parker discerned their son's potential as a wordsmith, as a preacher, which is to say in the words of my theme - they truly and deeply 'heard' him.  They then proudly made sure that others did, too! 

 Joseph Parker, like the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, would later find that he could not resist God's call to express what was in him. Not to follow that call would have been a failure 'to be.'  

 Surely we have all understood that on some level there is something in each of us that is longing for expression. There are some words, perhaps barely formed that are dying to get out. You may have felt at some point in your life that you were just on the edge of saying something you've always wanted to say but, yet again, didn't say it - somehow couldn't say it. And then the time passed and you forgot the urgency of that moment. You buried the words and got on with your life!

 My tribute to my friend turning sixty has to do with something that happened when I once told her about the transformation that occurred in the life of Henri Le Saux, a French priest who left his monastery to travel to India. He was searching for something he had not been able to find in the European expression of Christianity of that time.  

 I told my friend that Henri Le Saux met Sri Ramana Maharshi and then Sri Gnanananda. Upon meeting Gnanananda, Henri had a "true living experience, tearing him out of himself.” 

 "It was", says Henri, "not a meeting of two people in the ordinary sense, but a meeting beyond the level of the senses and the intellect, a meeting that happened in the most subtle part of the soul." (Henri Le Saux, quote by Shirley Du Boulay, in her book The Cave of the Heart - The life of Swami Abhishitananda p. 126, 127)  

 I told only a small part of the story of this priest's transformation and my friend responded: "He became a Siddha."  

 Her words - "He became a Siddha" stopped my mind at that moment, but I didn't do anything with them. I lodged them away somewhere at the back of my mind and left them there. But while meditating last week in the early morning - maybe it had to do with the tropical atmosphere of Maui! - I heard her words again and then again, perhaps more than two hundred times. The words resounded through me: "He became a Siddha."  

 A Siddha is a 'realized being.' A Siddha is someone who has recognized God in the deepest aspect of his being. Henri Le Saux could not deny the power of this experience of realization. It was the most important event in his life.  His struggle then became how to reconcile his experience in India with the Christian faith.  

 Le Saux, who became Swami Abishiktananda, wrote more than twenty books about his experience. I've read everything I could get my hands on.  For his stuggle has been mine.  

 Of particular interest to me is a certain Eastern Orthodox priest. When I read that priest six years ago, he simply did not sound like any others I'd read. His language was that of 'realization.’ 

  I re-entered the church then because I thought: "Here's someone who would understand what is in me." (if he were alive.)  It has now been five years since my return to the church.

Three years ago I discovered that this Eastern Orthodox priest, Bishop Anthony Bloom, travelled to India to meet Swami Abishiktananda. Why?  I know why, but have heard no details about their visit and have failed to find any.  

 What I know in my bones already is that Anthony Bloom was searching for what Henri Le Saux searched for. It's what I've been searching for all my life.

 And it has much to do with these three words, 'siddha,' 'realization' and 'recognition.'  

 My friend, about to turn sixty, said in response to one of the best stories I have to tell about the priest, Le Saux, that "He became a Siddha.

 She has no idea how deeply her words have landed. I believe she knew that in talking about Le Saux, I was actually talking about myself. And I am so grateful to have been 'heard' in this way.  

Thank you my dear friend, Pauline. 

(*Dedicated to Pauline O'Reilly, August, 2012)