I have always felt happiest with long hours of quietude. Days spent in contemplation, doing small mindful things like winding yarn, watching shadows or gathering stones. Ever since I was a child I yearned for such inner imaginary time, silent moments of pause when I could reflect back on my day, my mood, my life, and roam the hills of my innermind.
These days I often find such silence in the woods outside my home, by river flow or underneath the arms of the rhododendron canopies. I usually say I’m “going out for a walk” but truly I’m just wandering…within and without. This past weekend the mountains were graced with a thick blanket of snow and I laughed to look back on my tracks and see how much I meander, pause, criss-cross and stand still on my “walks.”
It is, of course, deeply filling to spend time in the woods. But you don’t need a stretch of pristine wilderness to connect back into your inner stream. Here, wherever here is, works quite well indeed.
One of the best jobs I ever had was as a dog walker in Brooklyn. Despite the drudgery of trudging through city snow, slush and rain, I always came home from my route simply suffused with an inner glow, because the bulk of my days were spent in quietude. For hours all I had to mind were my sweet animal companions, the people passing like water, the contents of my thoughts.
I often wandered, just like I do now. And though I was in the city, I felt as if I was connecting into a deep and organic well. A stillness in which I cleansed and processed the accumulated dust of my thoughts and was left feeling vibrantly alive.
With so many hours of the day of such quiet listening, my poetry flourished, my meditation practice deepened, and my sense of self became unshakable.
Recently I stumbled across the term Dadirri and it felt so resonant; it was as if someone had rung my heart like a bell. Brought into the global imagination by educator and activist Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Dadirri is an Aboriginal word for a quality of being described as inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. Though the term could loosely be translated as contemplation, it is much deeper than the placid ice skating of our day-to-day mind.
Dadirri arises from time spent in silent awareness of the world around you. Dadirri is listening to yourself, to the earth, and to the quiet voices of inspiration and substance that can only be heard through silence.
In the Aboriginal way of thinking, dadirri is a practice that is not actually a practice at all. It is a state of being that connects us back into the essence of our own being, and the being-ness of the entire world.
This winter I’ve decided to institute Dadirri Days. One day a week I put down the tasks of work and worry and just allow my mind to wander. I step away from my to-do lists and enter into quietude. Usually this means going for my serpentine rambles up hillsides to explore an interesting rock or sitting on the ground to watch the trees move in the wind. But it also means peaceably looking out the window, stretching in front of the wood stove, reading a fantasy novel or drinking a pot of tea and writing down my dreams.
Even if I can only carve out a couple hours on a Sunday, every time I give myself a moment of dadirri, I am returned.
We can hear many things when we stop and listen. New ideas and inspiration, directions and revelations straight from the heart of the world.
To open oneself to dadirri is to invite an understanding of a truth that our mind may not be able to put into words, but that our spirit can hear in the landing of a wren on a bare branch or the swish of water over stone. An understanding that is not immediately translated into concrete thoughts, action or gain, but that our soul can listen to and be filled.
What would your day of dadirri look like? In the midst of a busy schedule, weekend, or month, can you take time to open yourself to the possibility of such deep listening?
From the quieting blankets of snow here on the mountainside, to your homes, I send tidings of dadirri.
Looking for a way to listen more deeply to the land? Check out my exercise for “Place-Based Divination” below.
Place Based Divination
Readings with the Land
This exercise will help to open a deeper relationship between you and the land that surrounds you, opening the gateway to a divinatory look at where you are right now in your life. This exercise is wonderful way to connect to a new place or to enrich your relationship with a very familiar and beloved landscape. Try this divinatory exercise as many times as you’d like. I like to visit the same place and go through this exercise on different days. I am always astonished by how different my observations, drawings and reflections become. Every time will reveal new layers of understanding.
1) What do you Notice?
The first step in deepening any kind of relationship is to simply open your awareness. To notice. When we put down all other objectives and simply become the witness we open the gateway to so many more details. Using your senses write down any immediate impressions of the land. Colors, sounds, textures, patterns. Plants, animals, weather or stones. Let yourself list everything that feels prominent to you. Each and every one of these details is important for you at this time. Youâ€™ll notice, that each time you do this activity you will record something a bit different. The land is reflecting back to us exactly what we need to see.
2) How do you Feel?
Now turn that same gaze inward, become a witness to your inner landscape. How do you feel in this moment? Record any sensations in your body. Notice what thoughts cross you mind. What emotions are you feeling? Perhaps you are still carrying impressions from earlier in your day, or maybe you have the burgeoning sensation of something new. It is all valid. By turning our gaze inward we are connecting the outer and inner landscapes, creating a bridge of meaning through which further relationship and guidance and be heard.
3) Free Drawing
Sitting down within the pure impressions of your outer and inner landscape, let yourself do a free drawing of exactly where you are at now (in this moment). You do not have to be an artist to do this. In fact, some of my favorite drawings have been made with my non-dominate hand and lots of squiggles! This is not about getting a botanically correct rendition; it is more about capturing this moving moment in time. Don’t think, just draw. I often find such free drawing to be one of the best divination oracles. You must only clear your mind and let the lines and shapes come through.
4) Message from the Land
Now that we have created a bridge, a relationship of reflection between these inner and outer worlds, we are ready to receive our message for this time. The world is always communicating to us… if this land could say anything to you in this moment what would it be? Imagine the land wants to give you a stone, a specific gem of wisdom to take with you…what is it? Allow yourself to enter a soft space of receptivity, a kind of channeling state where you just let go and simply write down whatever comes.