“The Quieter You Become, The More You Can Hear.”
Every time I see this Ram Dass quote, I’m reminded of the owl, the wisest animal or bird in the forest. Owls are masters at camouflaging themselves and intensely listening. They are quiet, still, and patient. They can swoop down with almost soundless flight and snatch a small rodent that is inaudible to anyone else. That tiny mouse scurrying on the ground never heard its predator coming.
What’s to be learned from the owl? Jimi Hendrix said, “Knowledge speaks, and wisdom listens.” Owls invite us to become “first-class noticers” who blend into the background so they can observe with presence. They role model what it means to be still and invisible in a world that manically loves to call attention to itself.
A few years ago, I was given the opportunity to spend an hour with the owl in the photo below. Initially, it was just me, the owl, and an ornithologist who studies owls. After 15 minutes, the ornithologist left me and Ollie, the owl, together alone.
I felt like I was meditating with Ram Dass. Truly. It was a sublime experience as we observed each other. I tried to mirror everything Ollie was doing (except that Linda Blair moment in “The Exorcist” when Ollie rotated his head nearly 360 degrees). I noticed that the owl had asymmetrical ears that faced different directions, which helped him locate sounds without turning his head.
In sum, even as I write this, I feel the deep sense of the presence I experienced by communing with Ollie. Now, when I’m particularly frazzled in my monkey-mind mode, I visualize Ollie and do my best to “be the owl,” which just so happens to be my junior high school mascot.