Here’s how you can hear the “sound of the genuine …”
“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.” — Howard Thurman
The sound of the genuine …
I sense it like a gentle knock, a whispering for breath.
Reminds me of innocence before judgement.
Like my old christening ‘gown’ hanging in the wardrobe — received after my mother died 10 years ago. A silent treasure she’d kept. Of disgruntled hopes that our relationship would have been more than it turned out to be. Or maybe a memory of gentler times when she felt needed — as mother, wife, daughter.
Now, the ageing silk hangs at the end of a row of jackets and jeans.
Its delicate touch of hand-made — smocked and stitched with tiny rosebud knots — has its own sense of genuine.
Just like the bugs coming to life on the thumb-sized rose Stephen brought in from the garden. As I type, one of the little creatures travels my desk exploring a pile of papers needing attention. Tiny, silent, twittering steps — the sound of the genuine — adding nothing to a perfect silence. Simply exploring what the moment offers.
Nowadays, the ‘sound of the genuine’, often lays deep in the folds of a book. One of quiet ease and pared-back style.
Like the one I’m reading at the moment. (A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life by Parker J. Palmer) It owns a voice of genuine.
Late at night it beckons. When the house stills and there’s time to nudge a few more pages before energy calls for rest.
It was the next morning when I saw the quote (at the top of this page) — and it felt like another ‘sign’ to not let the wisdom of Palmer’s words slip too easily by.
Palmer writes of an ‘undivided life’ — and so much of what he says feels right and dovetails with the work I do.
Finding a ‘voice of genuine’ is like drawing clean breath — no smog, no filters, no hidden agendas.
A book like this beckons reflection. Looking back, I’ve lived a divided life — a face for the world, another for my private one — and probably another yet to discover while stumbling through this journey of growth and learning we’re all on.
Like many, the divided life started in school — where being ‘me’ wasn’t good enough. Last one picked (even then reluctantly) for softball teams, thought weird for wearing hair curlers to school (my mother’s idea — not mine — and yes, it was weird), dodging cream pies thrown by 9-year-old’s looking for an odd ball who screamed ‘geek’ with fire-red hair. Labelled ‘too sensitive’.
I saw it in my parents too. Their retreat from anyone edging too close. From comment or judgement. Preferring instead an insular world. One touched by fear. One diminished by isolation.
So many habits and patterns handed down generationally.
It’s easier to slip beneath the shadow of self rather than search for one’s own pathway. Joining a slip-stream of ‘acceptance’ over forging a path that may end in a place far from expected takes a fearless heart to go against the tidal drift to conformity.
Those years can be hard — finding bridges between childhood and adulthood that don’t feel shaky. Get real. Bridging any form of change is tough. There’s a part of yourself you must trust to cross. And a part to ignore.
Looking back I choked my natural voice for a long time. It swelled between a thick tongue and a tight throat, gagging at the energy ball inside fighting for free. From routines. From expectations. From the must-have, bigger-better-best world of more-is-more. Fighting for something I wasn’t even sure existed.
The problem is that in hiding (protecting ??) the inner voice — a natural divide happens, just as Palmer describes.
Vulnerability can be confronting — too bruising to keep lining up for.
But that was then.
Perhaps it’s in re-discovering those christening clothes that an inner softness and vulnerability began emerging again.
Who knows. Hindsight’s always been a great teacher — or mocker of what seemed so obvious then but got mixed up in the overwhelming confrontation of hurdling gaps.
What I do know is it took a long time to rediscover the part of me I’d put away, and in the meantime she’d become so small — and so worn out.
A bit like the re-emerging christening gown.
Christening outfit aside — I know I’m not alone with this thinking.
So many people I work with describe feeling ‘invisible’.
And I’ve come to think it’s in rediscovering the ‘lost self’ — the one shut down (or shut out to fit in) that someone’s ‘invisibility cloak’ can finally fall away.
Whether you hear yourself — or someone you know — describe feeling ‘invisible’ or ‘suffocated’ it often ends up in the same place.
A sense of searching — a feeling there’s more than day-in-day-out pay-the-mortgage/rent/bills limited-choices.
I think what’s missing is the loss of breath to soul — that connection to mindful presence and what’s genuine in ourselves. Palmer describes it well.
Like you, I know too many who “spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls”.
It’s an easy trap to fall into. Indecision. Procrastination. No opinion. No direction.
And you and I know where this leads — it can feel like something’s decaying. Not putrid yet. Hope of resurrection. Still on oxygen support.
It takes courage to go against what everyone around says is right and not follow the crowd buying into what one ‘should’ do.
It takes courage to forge a new path.
It takes courage to breathe life back into soul.
It takes courage to …
… finally see yourself as you are — not the masked version of pretend rhetoric buffeted by crowd-sourced mantras and expressionless words
… finally hear yourself make decisions to care more — about yourself and those you love — rather than live on the autopilot version of day-to-day routine
… finally feel worthy of investing in you because you want to feel the ‘sound of genuine’ echoing all round
… it’s about finally saying ‘yes’ knowing that you’re choosing to breathe deeply over suffocating in silence.
Because in a silent ‘yes’, the final breath of suffocation can be freed and replaced by a deep draft of head-tilted, lung-filling shouting for glee.
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