To Listen is to Honor

By | September 26, 2016

The following is an excerpt from my latest book, Becoming Nature: Learning the Language of Wild Animals and PlantsTo learn more or to order your own copy, visit my page here

Wolf CommunicationI learned to connect with animals nonverbally when I went to live with Wolves. At first, I thought we spoke different languages, as I couldn’t understand their words, and they were lost with mine. Initially I thought I could train them to recognize some of my words, as I did with my dogs. However, the more I got to know the Wolves, the more I saw how complete they were already, and the more I felt like an outsider. Making them join my world by learning my language just didn’t seem right—I realized that I would be demeaning them by implying that my language was superior to theirs. I humbled myself before them and began listening instead. 

Although I learned many of their words by listening, I soon realized that I was still missing something. I began to notice that their communications went well beyond the few words they used. Ever so gradually, I grew more sensitive to the silent voice on which they often relied.

What a revelation it was to be immersed in a world of sharing that was not voice reliant but instead based on intuition. Had I insisted on word-based communication, I would have only stymied my reawakening. And I would likely have drawn the conclusion that Wolves were simple creatures, capable of only basic communication.

A few years ago I learned about a young woman who spent her early childhood locked away in a corner of her house. She had learned only the rudiments of spoken language, so when she was found and rescued, the social welfare team put great effort into getting her verbal skills up to speed. 

Because of their focus, it took them awhile to recognize that she could communicate very well without words. If only they could have listened at the onset.

To listen is to honor. Every human, animal, plant, and supposedly nonliving entity has something to teach us, and as soon as we recognize this we can start to truly listen. When we listen to Nature without a goal or objective, we learn amazing things and cultivate new relationships. Along with that, we gain new insights regarding our place in the Hoop of Life.

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