By: Ani


I listen to the universe.

That is not to say that I always understand it, or heed the message, but I listen.

It can be difficult to pay attention to the natural rhythm of the world with all the noise that we humans produce, but if you want to, or need to, it can be done.

Listening is a choice. You have to want to pay attention. It is kind of like reading a Pat Conroy novel and letting yourself become mesmerized by his descriptions of the tides and the rising and setting of the sun. You need to put away your desire for drama and be quiet enough to accept nature’s pace.

Unless you have the right person with you, listening to the universe is a solo endeavor. In my house, I am the sole seeker of intentional quietude and contemplation. If you know me, you’d understand that I tend to run full tilt through work, parenting and play.  For most of my life I’ve had two speeds, fast forward and off. My family, on the other hand, husband and sons, tend to live on a more even keel. So, it makes sense that I would come to a point where I had to intentionally create intermissions in my day.

It is damn near impossible for me to be quiet around other people.  What’s the point? I like people because they have things to teach, stories to weave, empathy to share, and connections to make. Remember having childhood sleepovers where nobody slept?  Exactly my point.  Why surround yourself with people if you aren’t going to interact with them. So, as much as I crave human contact, listening to the universe is me time.

If the dark web or Russians are spying on me, they’ll have a hard time tuning in to my universe.  It doesn’t happen online, plugged in, or wired. It can’t.  All that noise and connectivity is the problem, and I was seeking a solution when I decided to put my own spin on Timothy Leary’s “Turn on, Tune in, and Drop out”.  Instead of Leary’s suggestion of psychedelic drugs, I realized all I needed to turn on my senses was to turn off. When my alarm sounds, an hour before I need to wake up, the only input I seek is the smell of coffee and whatever noise my dog and backyard can provide. That practice gives me the space to tune in to the universe and listen. With fresh energy and lucidity I can invite new ideas, wander into tangents, and meander along with whatever catches my mind’s eye. Here is where I find the space to grow thoughts. While tuned in to my universe a spark has time and space to develop into a reality instead of evaporating or being edged out by the latest breaking news.  Does it require dropping out?  Yes. Can I drop out whenever I want? No. That’s why I do it first thing in the morning.  The universe is always there, always available, and always providing input. I just need to make room for it.

Before I became aware of what I was looking for, the universe would find me in the shower. Yup. I used to get my best ideas at 5 am surrounded by farmer’s market  soap and Pantene hair products. It makes sense.  Water is one of those earthly elements that we crave, and the noise and privacy of a bath protects us from outside influences. Uninhibited by outside expectations I could just be in that little tiled space. And that’s when my mind became open to ideas and perspectives that were crowded out during the rest of my waking hours.  I had so many Ah-ha moments in the shower that I started keeping a pad of paper near the sink to capture them.  At work I must have shared the origin of my ideas with my students because often, during an introduction of an activity, a student would ask if I got this idea in the shower. Yes, grasshopper.

The early bird catches the universe before it recedes into the day like a tide.  It is hard to find the universe once the garbage truck starts rumbling nearby, it’s gears grinding as it zig zags up and down the hill through the neighborhood.  It is hard to hear the universe when a cell phone from the other room is reporting the latest tweet or a screen is tempting you with a full inbox of news updates, summer clearance offers, and friendly invitations to pool parties.

I am lucky that my listening to the universe happened in my own, organic way, but I get why people have to make appointments to do it.  It is hard to turn off this crazy world and get back to your center.  What could be worse than an uninformed American these days?  What do you mean you don’t know about the Don Lemon rebuttal, Space Force, or the latest example of the president shooting off his uninformed mouth and his administration having to repackage it as a policy? How dare you not pay attention.

I don’t think ignorance is bliss, but these days it is self preservation to find a way to see past the man made culture and listen to a force that has no right or wrong, it just is.

I can’t be the only one that feels this need.  I see evidence of people needing to tune into the universe and out of information technology all the time.  I live with someone who scrolls through news feeds like they are a side dish ordered with a meal. The ever present cell phone keeps some level of his awareness linked to the anxiety provoking tenor of our current events.  It’s an addiction that fuels his awareness and agitates him, kind of like crack.

Traveling through eight states this summer I saw lots of opportunities to make an appointment with the universe and step off the fast track to bliss out.  Every cool downtown area had great coffee shops, tapas bars, breweries, distilleries, quirky clothing boutiques, tattoo parlors, and a multitude of yoga studios and meditation dens. Walk-ins welcome.  Classes begin every 50 minutes.  If I was available at 11am I could have done Yin yoga in Thomas, WV followed by a flight of locally crafted beers. Charleston, SC offered rooftop yoga to welcome the sunrise, and I was tempted to join a group of early risers who convened a yoga circle at the eastern end of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge.

So, a year of intentionally listening to the universe has helped me become aware of its power. It’s good to know I can find that power within myself.  All I have to do is listen.  Now that I know how to do that in my own life it seems commonsensical. Why doesn’t everyone do it? Some people don’t find a way, but I would encourage them to persevere.  And that is a topic for next month.

All of the spiritual paths I’ve explored through my life – Buddhism, Judaism, Yin Yoga, Tang Su Do, Taoism were meant to help me find my way. Whatever the struggle, I sought a path to lead me out of the chaos or the darkness. As our world becomes more clouded by political negativity and the winds of autocratic leadership, I seek solace in my universe. I hope you can find the quiet to hear yours.


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