A season for listening


23 Mar 2020

Autumn lends itself to deep listening. It is a season to take time out to really hear what is going on.

Autumn is a season of change, from the heat and activity of summer to the cold and calm of winter.

It is the time when crops are harvested and stored to provide food through the winter, and the ground prepared for the next season’s plantings. It is a time of preparation and change. It reminds us that in the midst of life, we must ready ourselves for hardship and loss, even death

Autumn can be a time when we ‘cultivate an open, attentive and receptive attitude in order to enter into transformative, mystical encounters’.


Just as we have no control over the way in which nature prepares for cooler weather, we have no control over whether we will experience mystical encounters. However just as nature goes through a transition at this time of the year, we too can prepare ourselves to encounter the Sacred.

When you ‘listen deeply’ in an Australian autumn, take time to really see and hear what is going on at every level of your life and your environment. What do you hear/see/touch/ taste/feel? The leaves on eucalypts thin out noticeably; deciduous trees shed all of their leaves, revealing dark skeletons of bare branches. The earth rests, plant growth slows, the sun’s heat becomes but a soft warmth.

We have much to learn from the people of Australia’s first nation about deep listening. Miriam Rose Ungunmerr shares with us the notion of Dadirri.

‘It is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness….

‘Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia is thirsting for. It is something like what you call “contemplation”….

‘When I experience dadirri, I am made whole again. I can sit on the river bank or walk through the trees; even if someone close to me has passed away, I can find my peace in this silent awareness. There is no need of words. A big part of dadirri is listening. Through the years, we have listened to our stories. They are told and sung, over and over, as the seasons go by. Today we still gather around the camp fires and together we hear the sacred stories.’1


When we listen deeply to autumn in our own place we open ourselves to a recognition of God’s presence in all that is. It is a season of change, a liminal time, which offers us the opportunity of allowing God’s infinite love and goodness to protect us from the cold, and comfort us in our losses.

It is a time when we can reflect on the social, economic and environmental challenges that are facing our land and her people, especially those so recently affected by fire, drought and floods, and those displaced from their place of origin.

Many people do not like the prospect that autumn heralds in a period of longer darkness and less sunlight. They tend to become depressed in times of confinement, and personal and global issues crowd in on them. All that is very real. We need to prepare during autumn so that we can wrap around ourselves our friendships, our experiences and our achievements against the coldness which is to come.

It helps to find beauty in the changing environment. From now on, our lives will be lived within. Like the grapes that are harvested in happy sunlight, turning to wine in dark cellars, our thoughts will transform and grow richer.


Most importantly we are not alone. Autumn provides us with an opportunity for greater clarity about the transitions in the life of Christ. He listened deeply in the desert as he prepared for his public ministry; he withdrew to mountain tops and seashores from time to time; he lingered in the Garden of Olives

when he realised that the officials were closing in on him. Deep listening in this autumn time can open us to deeper encounters with the Sacred.

We could make this our prayer at this time:

May all that is not love fall away.
May all that is not truth fall away.
May all that is not fullness fall away.
May all that is not richness fall away.
May all that is not peaceful fall away.
May this autumn season’s soft release
bring us closer to your all-embracing love.
Through and with the love of Christ, Amen.

This is the second in a series of reflections by Sr Mary Tinney, who is founder and facilitator of Earth Link, a project of the Sisters of Mercy, which encourages ‘deep bonding within the Earth community’ as key to its vision of a world where there is ‘respect, reverence and care for the whole Earth community’. She is the author of a book recently released by Morning Star Publishing – When Heaven and Earth Embrace: How Do We Engage Spiritually in an Emerging Universe?

1. Ungunmerr, Miriam Rose Dadirri, Compass Theology Review, no. 1—2, 1988, pp. 9—11.

This article first appeared in Madonna magazine Autumn 2020 edition.

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