Deer and Wolf. The Art of Listening
One of my favorite group activities that we did on the Foodtree retreat was a game called Deer and Wolf. Our group did an early morning walk from Foxglove Farm to a nearby lake in the forest and this is where we played. We did this exercise in groups of four, with one person playing the deer and the three others as wolves. The deer was blindfolded and positioned in an open area, and it was the job of the wolves to try and sneak up as silently as possible and steal the deer’s tail (a bandana). If the deer hears a wolf and points in your direction, then you’re out.
I was part of the first group to play the game, with Sam and Jonny as my fellow wolves, and Na’ama as the deer. As we started I felt myself slowing down and concentrating on every sound around me. I immediately fell into the mindset of an animal, though I felt more like a cat than a wolf. Pretending to be an animal was one of my favorite things when I was a kid, so I thought this was a great game.
The purpose of the game is to remind you to listen. The deer has to listen for sounds of the wolves sneaking up and prevent them from getting too close, while the wolves have to be as silent as possible.
As I stalked Na’ama I found myself in a state of clarity and focus that I haven’t felt in a very long time. I was actively listening in a way I don’t normally, and what I mostly heard was silence. For the most part the sounds of my own breathing and heartbeat were the loudest things I could hear. I moved as slowly as possible being very careful about where I placed my feet amongst the dry grass and sticks, and used ambient noises to mask my movements when I could. My biggest struggle was trying not to laugh as I did this because the trickster part of me loves sneaking up on people (ask Boris).
This week I’ve been reminded of this exercise as I look after a friend’s dog who is blind. His name is Charlie and he’s been this way since birth, so for him listening is an important part of how he makes his way through the world. As I spend time with him I’ve found myself once again paying more attention to sounds in an effort to imagine how he “sees”.
Active listening is clearly an art I need to cultivate because too often I find myself distracted and unfocused. How often do I really listen without the constant dialogue in my own head getting in the way? Both situations are a good reminder to slow down, listen, and strive for clarity of focus. Too-busy-life be damned. 🙂