I speak, in this website, about listening. Being able to listen is something I prize, I treasure; and it was not always something I was able to do.
As a child, listening was the natural medium in which I lived, like the fish in the water. One of my favorite children’s records was about a blind dog named “Muffin,” and Muffin’s adventures purely from the perspective of sound. My recollection (I could have it wrong) is that Muffin had to navigate the country and the city, and the country was far easier.
There, sounds of birds in the trees announced that it was morning, and the tumbling waters of a creek told of near water to drink. In the city, though, the challenges were more formidable: just crossing the street in the midst of the car horns blaring jarred and nerve-wracked this sensitive puppy. In my youthful innocence, I became that sensitive puppy in my imagination, and was so relieved when he made it across the street, and when the people who loved him found him after his unanticipated solo adventures.
Indeed, the connection between listening and imagination was a direct correlation, in those days of stories taken in with closed eyes, through the ears. And in my case, this was an intrinsic part of my childhood—not only because I was born in the days just before TV and therefore dependent on records, and radio – and parents, for bedtime stories!—but also because my father, Max Berton, had as his work (the best job of his career) that he wrote stories for radio, in the days when that was the primary medium for them, post-tribal sitting-around-the-fire-telling-stories.
I am sure all this sustained and deepened my love of listening. And brought inner worlds to my palpable notice, and told me that the inner life had a reality all its own.
But I would be remiss to suggest that I was always a good listener to other people. Not so. I recall when I was in my thirties being in a spiritual group where we went around and spoke to a certain subject, and as the distance between the person speaking and myself narrowed, meaning that my turn would come soon, the noise in my head grew louder and fuzzier, obscuring all but the distant trace of the speaker’s voice (certainly, what it was s/he was saying) because my focus was so much on what I would say when my turn came. The focus on myself (which, ironically, was not really a focus on my real self at all) made it difficult-to-impossible to even physiologically hear what someone else was saying, much less be aware of them as themselves, care about them, and be able to hold a “listening field” into which they could experience themselves as being heard and thereby more easily, more genuinely, hear themselves. That ability required a very long (I’m talking decades) journey to be able to hear, and feel, and become interested in the deeper, truer strata of, myself.
As recently as this month, I was sitting with a new friend. We are still getting to know each other. And she is a very interested listener—I’m not sure that’s the same as a good listener, but she makes it clear that she wants to know about me. I find it pleasurable to speak about myself when someone wants to know, and before long I was surprising myself by telling her stories that I hadn’t realized were stories, like how I met my second husband by going to a meet-and-greet event that completely turned me off, but the saving grace was that I talked with a woman I liked and we became friends out of that. A year or so later, she introduced me to my now-husband. So I say that I met him, indirectly, through a meet-and-greet; though it was not him, at that point, that I met. I followed my interest the best I could (I came for a mate, but met a friend and accepted that; then met my mate through her).
Telling my new friend this story was like swelling into some version of myself that hadn’t had much room, and I appreciated it. And when she followed that up with a statement about herself in another vein, I could hear in my mind some equivalent story from my own life wanting to tell itself; after all, it was heady to be able to talk about myself.
But something paused me, and it is this that I am grateful for, as it suggests that my ability to listen—my commitment to it, and my conviction that listening is a source of healing all its own—has strengthened to the point where the desire to do this gives itself to my awareness even when I am not consciously oriented in that direction. When my new friend said something about herself to which I could easily have responded with a related story about myself, I did not indulge it. Instead, I realized that she was seeking a way to be heard, and to be with herself through that. And so I reflected back to her what I had heard her say, and asked her a further question about herself.
That she opened to this without hesitation told me that I had done the right thing for myself, as well as her; that the process of making a connection that can deepen beyond surface conversation and getting-to-know-you, meet-and-greet, was the reward in and of itself. When she left, I felt more anchored in myself than when she arrived more of a stranger. Her perfume lingered on my clothing for a short time, and her presence lingered in my grateful heart.
I know that the “About” section of a website is supposed to be more perky and bullet-pointed, but this is what I want to share with you: that I prize listening, both as the listener and the one listened to. I view listening as, at its truest, a holy act, a gift of Self. There is something in the soul that knows how to do this, and when listening takes place from this level of one’s being, something sacred happens in both parties, and even between both parties, in the space in between. That Presence is what I seek to offer my clients, as well as my family, my friends, myself.
I’m not always instantly successful; sometimes the “But what will I say?” or “But what about me?” gets in the way, since I am human and also have an ego and early conditioning to contend with. But more often than in previous adult years, and often enough to feed my soul, this listening can come into play. And out of this being listened to, people have done, in my presence and with my mentoring, some incredibly beautiful and potent writing.
The other half of the listening is that I am an artist in several media, something I used to feel a bit odd about until I latched onto the term “Renaissance Woman,” which gave me a larger-than-myself image to house what I might be capable of. I write, I draw and do other kinds of visual art, and I sing and play the dulcimer.
The dulcimer is a simple stringed instrument you hold on your lap, whose very name says its quality: dulce ~ gentle, sweet. When I take the dulcimer down from the wall and place it in my lap, put my left hand on the frets and my right hand on the strings, something very simple and still comes over me. The instrument tunes me as well as the other way around.
Listening comes into the singing as a matter of its nature; perhaps not all singers listen, any more than all speakers listen; but my semi-professional singing was done in choruses, where the conductor always exhorted us to listen to each other, and he or she was right. Listening while writing is also a reality; it doesn’t always happen, but when it does, there is a sense of being an instrument of the Divine, or at least deeper strata of myself, and I get to find out things I never quite knew before, or never knew I knew, and to find myself lifted to heights I could not have forced myself into by sheer will. Music is said, by some, to be the soul of our being, the origin of Life itself (see The Mysticism of Sound and Music, by Hazrat Inayat Khan). In my experience, there is a level of awareness and heart possible to me in singing that is rarely possible in speech. I hope at some point to include some of my singing on my personal website, www.naomirose.net, in case you are interested to hear it.
That site also showcases some of my artwork (drawings & photos). Here is a taste. (They are available on that site for purchase.)
I love being able to do and to offer a whole soup-to-nuts, spark-to-finish menu to people I work with. It fits with that part of my personality that tends towards the comprehensive (not to say “exhaustive,” and hopefully not exhausting). That I am now offering actually getting books into print, designing and typesetting them and so on (using a book-design template) is very satisfying for me, and makes these people very happy to have a beautiful book of theirs in print. That’s the end-result satisfaction. The journey of writing a book is less simple for most people—that is, there is great satisfaction and joy in it, but other experiences as well, some of them challenging; but to have the book in hand and be able to say, “That’s mine! I did that! I know just what went into that, and now, here it is, and it’s beautiful!”—that is a kind of instant gratification. Once, years ago, when I was still clarifying and building my business and experiencing a moment of discouragement, I said to a friend, “Maybe I should just let all this go and do something simple that makes people clearly and instantly happy, like scoop ice cream.” This part of my offering, the book-in-print, is that ice-cream experience.
And on a more factual level “about me”: I was born in New York City to two writers, and my grandfather, too, was a writer (in Yiddish), so I am (at least) third-generation. I fought being a writer for many years (too complex to go into here), and came through the side door by working as an editor, starting in the early 1970s. I didn’t seek it intentionally; it showed up, and I said yes to it. I stayed with editing for over 30 years, honing my craft, working with publishers, authors, businesses, and nonprofits. I learned a great deal about books, especially the “good face” that books put on in the marketplace (like you might dress up to go to a special event). I won a few awards, and got mentioned in several “Who’s Who” volumes. Eventually, though, my need for more meaning and authenticity in my own life, and in what I was able to offer in life, took me back to graduate school (I already had an MA in English Literature) where I studied transpersonal and clinical psychology, thinking I might become a therapist.
I did not become a therapist, but what I learned about the deeper life beneath the surface life eventually nourished me and led me to creating what I called “Writing from the Deeper Self,” in which the person doing the writing was every bit as important—more, really—as what it was that got written. Over time, after doing workshops and groups and then settling into one-on-one work with, now, hundreds of clients, I saw that this highly attuned and personalized focus almost always bore fruit. When we can truly see ourselves and feel seen, something of the inner treasure that awaits within each heart comes forth. Writing is one way in which that can happen. So while I did not become a licensed therapist, I have been told by some clients that the experience of working with me is very therapeutic; that they can hear themselves deeply and rewardingly through their writing. Recently, one client gave me an off-the-cuff testimonial that thrilled me, and is worth sharing here. He said, “I was trying to psych myself up into being an author; but now, it’s like I’m me, writing.”
I am the mother of a grown son, the light of my life, and am married to the (wonderful!) poet Ralph Dranow. We live in Oakland, California. We have a lot of books in the house. And some of them are written by my clients.
I’ve been involved with writing and books, and art, all my life. It’s my mission, and my joy, to help you bring out your artistry.
(I hope I get to do that with you and for you.)
“I was a hidden treasure and I longed to be known.”(Attributed to the Divine, and the Divine in us)
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Schedule a free phone consultation with me. Email me at email@example.com, or call me directly at (510) 465-3935 (Pacific Standard Time).
I look forward to the genuine privilege of helping you birth your book and bring your wisdom, creativity, beauty, and healing influence to readers across the world.
It’s your turn to be heard, now.
Let’s listen to you, together.