“Listen.”

“I am listening.”

“What do you hear?”

“Nothing.”

“How can you hear nothing?  Listen again.”

“I can hear a dog bark….  A car go past….  I can hear the rain on the window…. I can hear my neighbours breathing……..  I can hear my breathing……..I can hear my heart beating………I can hear the blood in my veins….”

We are sitting in the classroom.  It is a beautiful Spring day, warm enough to have the doors open and let the breeze come in.  The grass has that special tinge of green which comes when the new shoots outnumber the tired old brown leaves that are now so brittle.  The sky holds a blue of promise, of new life and fresh beginnings; and soft, white clouds glisten against the vivid background.

“Be still.  Take a deep breath.  What do you feel?”

“Air so cool, so new…..Freshness, like I am coming alive…..Connection to all that is outside…..I want to be outside!”

Stillness and silence came that day in a class of twenty girls and boys aged around thirteen years old for a brief moment.  Usually these children love to chat, but something about that day, that time, beckoned to them and touched a part of their humanity that is always there; even though the premature veneer of sophistication induced by the demands of an affluent 2ist Century lifestyle constantly threatens to drown this sensitivity.   Silence and stillness can be demanded, coerced, but it remains the product of regimentation through the inferior submitting to superior authority and therefore has no meaning.

Instead we begin with listening together.  It is through collective participation in listening that sensitivity and compassion can flower.  We undervalue the importance of listening in a world that clamours with noise and frenetic activity.