Radio Free Silence

There are three of you out there who remember my podcast “Satellite of Grace.” In it, I talked to people from all over about their religious beliefs. I talked to people from just about every major religion, I talked to people whose religion was a central factor in their lives and people who were largely indifferent to faith. What I really loved about doing the podcast was the freedom it gave me to listen. Really listen.

When interviewing someone, I normally had a loose agenda of things I wanted to know about the person’s religion or their own personal experience of it, but I never knew in advance what people were going to say. Sometimes, people expressed surprising views about their beliefs or their doubts. More than once, people tried to convert me. Listening carefully, with my entire heart and mind, meant that I was able to experience the unexpected with excitement rather than consternation. Someone coming up with something new was an opportunity to take the discussion in an exciting direction, not a failure to follow format. Listening to people with my whole heart and mind meant that, as I heard them speak, I felt humbled and privileged that they chose to share something so personal with me.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been seeing a therapist, and last week, we had what struck me as sort of a summing up. He said that I’d been seeing him for about five months, and when I first started seeing him my complaints were basically stress and anxiety and an inability to sleep and elevated blood pressure (are you sensing a theme, here?). He wanted to know if I still felt that way. While the specific incident that made me seek help in the first place has long since played out, the fact that I’m constantly stressed hasn’t changed. When he asked me “What exactly do you want help with?” I realized that all I want is to be able to relax and enjoy life a little more.

I realized that when I was interviewing people for the podcast, I was so completely outside myself and into their stories, that I felt utterly happy. I’m not the kind of person who enjoys things like skydiving or white water rafting (although I do miss my motorcycle), but there was something very in the moment about talking to folks about themselves. I’m considering taking an extended break from talking (read: Facebook, Twitter, email) and concentrating more on listening. It might be a way to get out of my own head and into some other people’s.