Chapter 13- Sacred Listener
If you have been called mentally ill, then you are a sacred listener. This means you listen closely to the heartbeat of the world. You hear everything. Every breath, every motion and every cry for help. Those of us who listen have always been called the crazy ones. It is the sacred act of listening that makes us who we are.
We know how to listen to the wind. Do the trees speak to you as they speak to me? Do hawks swoop in front of you with a silence that feeds your soul? Do you hear the songs of whales in your heart when you sing to your children at night? Are you a follower of the rhythms of the moon? Perhaps you have been called a lunatic. Like I have. Like we all have.
You might be a follower of the rhythms of the cosmos, but you are not a lunatic. You are something else entirely. You are the reason the cosmos exists. It’s people that listen that make the world spin on its axis. Don’t be ashamed of listening anymore. You have nothing to apologize for.
You have a friend in the sacred. The divine light that moves through everything moves through you. For a long time, I did a group called Roots and Visions. It went something like this: Do you have voices, visions, unusual beliefs or other extraordinary experiences that have been shut down by the world around you? Join us in a safe, supportive environment to explore these experiences in a way that makes sense to you. That group opened my eyes to the magic that can happen when people are allowed to heal in their own way.
That is what we are denied when we are called mentally ill. We are denied our right to make sense of our own experiences. We are told that we cannot be having them at all. And what are they? What are voices and visions and beliefs that we have about the world that no one seems to share?
They are our own personal way of listening. They are our genius, our birthright as human beings. They are windows into the mystery. We cannot contain the mystery. Nor are we to be contained by people who try to keep us in small boxes that deny the breadth and beauty of human consciousness.
There is a movement across the world called the Hearing Voices movement. It is an activist movement. People in it say that they have the right to their own experience where they can find ways to make sense of what has happened to them that is considered beyond the ordinary. They find support with each other.
Often, they identify their experiences with the pain and suffering of trauma. I have found that trauma definitely exists among people whose consciousness leaves the ordinary. Which is every person on the planet, by the way. People would come to me and say, “I don’t hear voices.” But I didn’t find one person who doesn’t have a deceased grandmother that talks to him in his dreams or some other “unusual” experience of the breadth of our sacred souls.
Trauma is very prevalent among sacred listeners. Often, we have been abused and brutalized. Our trauma doesn’t begin the moment we come into the mental health system (although mine did). The system only exacerbates our trauma and freezes our hearts and minds. The reason we get into trouble at all is because of the brutality of the world. We simply hear. We hear the ancestors and the animals and the souls of other wounded ones crying. We hear them so loudly we get depressed or anxious or what is called psychotic.
It is a simple truth that being a listener means we hear everything. And the world has been such that there is far too much pain for one person to hear. But in my experience with lots of sacred listeners I have found that we also hear something else. We hear the voice of God. We hear the voice of goodness. We have angels and grandmothers and special friends. I certainly have my friends the elephants and the whales and the hawks. Grandfather tree sends his roots deep into me whenever I ask him.
To listen is to understand the world. How do you understand the world? Do you understand it only through the lens of your trauma? Or do you understand it through the lens of your magnificence?
I am going out on a limb here. And I am saying be free. I just spent five months on a long-term ward of a state mental hospital. There are people that I care about that are still there. Lots and lots of people. The scope of it is staggering. To be thrown away like that. I explained over and over that I was simply listening. And no one believed me. No one believed me at all. They said I had no right. They said I had no rights. They said I was nothing.
I can’t listen to them. And you can’t either. I am fresh from the ward and I am writing this book. Which you are now reading. Are you fresh from the ward of your own pain? I have $40 and a whole list of nothing. I was released to absolute devastation in my life. As I write this it is still not over. But as you read this obviously it is.
No one had the right. No one had the right to keep me, to throw me away, to tell me I am not sacred. But they did it anyway. I had to be there because NO ONE has to. It is my calling, my purpose to be a freedom fighter. When I was in the system, I did not do nothing. I participated in the healing of the world. I worked with the Dalai Lama in the sight.
For the sight is the place of the sacred listeners. We all have the sight. The sight was painful for me because I was in the soul place with people that I loved and everyone around me was in the ordinary world. That happens for sacred healers. Often in Roots and Visions we would talk about how to navigate the bridge between what happens to us in the sight, or the soul place and what we know when we return to ordinary life.
My life will never return to ordinary again. I went as far into the sight as a person can go and I healed it all the way in my own soul. Now the Dalai Lama writes the afterwards to my books.
He is the keeper of the sight. And so am I. And so, maybe are you. What does that mean to you? Are you familiar with the soul place? Do the words the sight resonate with you? Do you listen to things no one else seems to ever understand?
If so, then take heart. This book is here to free you, mind and soul. There is the brutality of what happens to us in the world when we are sacred healers and sacred listeners. They have no right. And those of us who have been brutalized will make sure that they do not continue their bad work of keeping us small and throwing us away.
But there is so much more to us than anything they can do to confine us. There is our magnificence. What do you say about that? Now that you have come beyond the place where you can be thrown away what do you throw yourself into?
I throw myself into my work as a writer. I sit here, still in confinement and I write. I write to you. And I write for myself. And I write for the sacred that moves through me. I have been told over and over again that I am small. I have been completely dismissed as a human being of value.
For a long time, I was very well respected in my circles. I was seen as an advocate, a healer, a writer, a gifted person. And in truth, I was. And I had a lot of success in my life. And then I was taken back into the darkness. This time I was taken back into the darkest part of the world that calls itself a system of care for people that it is obvious no one really cares about.
Are you one of those people? Does no one care about you? Are you ostracized, are you disempowered, do you have no job, no car, no life outside being a “consumer” of the system? Does your family identify you as the broken one? So many are like you. Or have you risen one step above to be a “peer” where you work at a low paying job with a little respect from your colleagues but not that much because you are only the one with “lived experience” but not the expert?
I go out on another limb here. To say, “Enough!” That might seem radical because it is. What we need is radical. A radical shift in the way we hold the sacred in our world. Have we agreed that we are sacred? If not, then why not? Why is listening such a crime? Why is hearing the world as it really is the thing that makes us broken?
Are we really broken, or do we allow ourselves to be absconded with at every turn? Why can’t we rise above that which wants to keep us small? Why can’t we acknowledge who we are in our most magnificent hearts and minds and souls?
Who are we, really? I would propose that we are the very answer we seek. When we stop denying ourselves the world will no longer have the opportunity to deny us. We do not need a system that “cares” for us by denying who we are and telling us who to be. We do not need to be denied our basic human rights to our own beliefs and the permission to do as we will with our own person. If we have differing beliefs than the doctors or the other ones in power so be it. Why does that mean that we need to be subjected to forced treatment, to confinement and to complete dismissal of our basic rights as humans?
I met no one in the long-term ward or on the shorter term wards who was dangerous. I met people who were broken down by the brutality of being confined with no place to go and no one who cares about them. I met people that are extraordinarily compliant in every way. They wait patiently in long lines for their medication, for their terrible food. They sleep quietly in uncomfortable beds and they sit for hours in mind numbing groups about nothing at all.
They are kind to each other. They complain hardly at all. They are trapped. Completely and wholly trapped. Why is this so? A lot of people benefit from their existence in those trapped wards. There are lots of people who make their living off of keeping other people confined. It is economical to keep people prisoner. They are there for no good reason other than that the system wants it to be so.
Freedom fighting comes at a cost. Are you a freedom fighter? Are you an activist? Are you a sacred healer? Do you want better, for yourself and for all of the beautiful people in the world that get trapped by complacency and greed and complete lack of respect for human dignity?
Are you sacred? It is time now. We must be sacred together. We must now fight for our freedom. The time of The Rooted Mind is here. We must grow our roots. We must stop allowing ourselves to be seen as lost and broken. We must stand together and have one voice. We must give voice to what we listen to.
Listen closely, now. What is the sacred whispering inside your soul? You know about the sight. You know about the soul place. You may not yet have made sense of all of your experiences from the world of the unseen, but it is not as hard as you think. You just need a guide. Others can guide you. Others have been through it, too. There is all kinds of support once we start talking to one another.
Let us stop being silent about our experiences of the other worlds that we can hear so clearly. All we are is human. We are just simply humans. And that means we have a part of us that is a soul. And that means we have the sight. And that means we can talk. We can talk to other souls. And we can hear the others talking back. And that means we can listen.
If you were to stop now and listen closely to your magnificence what would it say to you? Would it say write? Would it say teach? Would it say paint? Would is say sing? What would you do if you could do anything? Who would you love? Would you love yourself? Would you finally, finally step outside of the broken places in your own mind and heart and love yourself and the world the way you are meant to?
Once I knew a person who said he didn’t believe in anything. He said he never felt safe. And then he said he believed in his favorite sweatshirt. And that when he wore it he felt okay. And then he said he believed in eagles.
The window into our own soul is in what we love. You love. I know that you love. You have stuck with me this far. That means you love. Find love. Find the thing that you most want to listen to. It may surprise you and it may not. Then let the rest go.
Find other people to process your trauma with if you have it. Find ways to make sense inside yourself about what you have heard. You have all of the answers inside of you. I always say the things we hear don’t have to make literal sense in the way that science does. Sometimes things can make sense in the way of dreams. Sometimes we as sacred listeners have the gift and the task of walking through the world as dreamers that are awake.
You have a sense of what you need to find your own rooted mind. You have an understanding of who you are and what you have been through that is the direct pathway to your own healing. And when you are healed there is no telling what you are capable of.
You may have been one of the ones that were thrown away completely and told that you are beyond lost and broken. You may have been told like I just was that you are nothing at all. Or you may be one that lives in the normal world and passes through unnoticed. You may only be lost and broken in your own mind and heart.
Your soul is not and never has been broken. You are a sacred healer and a sacred listener. Now do me a favor. Listen to the song the moon is singing to you. It might be lunacy, or it might just be lunar. You decide for yourself.