Recently, my mom told me that when asked about his religious beliefs, my dad would answer “It’s all about the message.”
My dad himself was a master of “the message.” He was a verbal minimalist, and he always knew just what to say and when to say it.
One particular moment when I was having a crisis of confidence, he disappeared for a bit then reappeared and handed me something. No spoken words. He had fashioned the letter U out of cardboard and added a smashed Campbell's soup can.
Message (beautifully and gratefully) received.
This has been a tough year for me in many, many ways - and I’ve needed to remind myself of that particular message often. This special creation from my dad’s heart resonates in my heart still, and it continues to reverberate in new ways. Today - my dad is telling me that I can move through the grief. Tomorrow, maybe something else.
It’s all about the message.
Sometimes a message stays with us. Sometimes it lasts but takes on new meaning over time. Sometimes the same message comes up over and over. Sometimes there are too many messages at once. Or none at all.
I believe there are always messages for us. If we listen.
But more than that, I try to listen for the message, not just to it. Listening for it means really listening. Then listening some more. Listening for means listening within and beyond.
I have to be quiet to listen. I have to be really quiet to listen for something.
It’s easiest when we trust and value the source of the message. In fact, we often seek out those messages - and messengers - when we need them. We actively listen for something that will help us. We can get quiet to listen easily because the source matters and we want the message.
But messages for our growth come from less obvious places too. When I hear a message I don’t want to hear, don’t like, or that upsets me, I might think I know the message right way. I listen to it and react. But what if I listen for the message in that situation? The message inside the message I listened to. The one that’s within and beyond. The real message for me.
My practice is to first try to feel the message - and my reaction - in my body. Do I feel sick in my gut? Or does my head ache? Do I want to yell? Do I feel like huddling under the covers in bed? Then, I try to sit with it for a while, rather than pushing it away or trying to turn it off. “A while” could be a minute, a few days, or much longer. After being with it for a while, there is more space around it, and I can actively inquire: what's here for me?
Even when I think the message is clear, I want to keep listening. Listen harder, deeper. In my body. With my soul. Within and beyond.
It’s all about the message.
Hmm. Even that message has a message for me. I just had to listen for it.