Walking quietly through my life and listening—noticing the nuanced language of the world around me—I have come to recognize a presence—an energy—available to me. Sometimes it arrives like the outstretched palm of a hand that I might climb up into. It holds me there in its caress, freeing me. Sometimes it is revealed through visual messages—a flash of “No.” “Yes!” “Wait.” It often comes through a feeling or a sense of knowing. Sometimes I don’t like what I hear. Often I do. In my creative process and in my experiences as a mother, I begin listening at the start of my work—at the start of my day—and notice an opening. I experience an inner-sensation—as if a switch is turning. I know that I am connected to this energy when I am overcome with a sense of peace and my work—my life— flow through me, as opposed to from me. The elements of my work, of my interactions fall—almost magically—into place and in ways that I could never have imagined. I respond in my mind with, “Thank you. Thank you. I am listening.” I have also received messages on movie screens, through graffiti on an abandoned building, in the inscription of a book, through a friend’s unexpected arrival at my door. My practice in listening is constantly changing and enhanced by offering acknowledgement, by slowing my pace and by responding to the messages I receive with steps in the direction that I am guided.
There are so many ways to experience inner-listening. I am inspired by the many individuals who are living according to their own inner-whisperings and the varied ways in which the messages are revealed. My hope is that in knowing about the listening journeys of others, we may all tune-in to our own soul’s voice more frequently and experience the beauty that may come forth when we do.
Morgan Nichols, Brooklyn, NY
Q: Please describe yourself and your work in a sentence or two.
A: I am the child of crafts-people, so although most people would call me a filmmaker, I like to think of myself as a Cinema Craftsperson.
Q: What does inner-listening mean to you?
A: I attended Quaker meetings as a child and young man, and that practice taught me to listen in stillness to the Inner Light that shines in us all. I no longer attend any religious gatherings, but I am grateful to still have access to the quiet truthful things that can be found deep within.
Q: What has inner-listening meant to your work?
A: When making a large film, I am often collaborating with 30 or more people all at once. With so many voices and opinions, it is easy to lose track of my own, personal perspective. I must remind myself that in order to do best for myself, the film, and all the people who have joined this creative endeavor – I must be able to access that inner perspective that is wholly mine, and at the same time, (if I’m doing it right,) part of the collective unconscious. This is not easy in the chaotic surroundings of a film set, but it is perhaps my most important practice.
Q: Is there an instance in your life that stands out as a time in which you were spoken to more distinctly than at other times?
A: Many years ago, in San Francisco, I felt a strong message from what I then interpreted as God. At the time, I was a high-achieving young man, yoked with a tremendous pressure to live up to my maximum potential. The message was quite clear: “You’re off the hook, kid. You don’t have to do anything. All the greatness that you feel you must do or you will be a failure, none of that is necessary. Do nothing, and you are still just as valuable. Release the driving compulsion. Release.” On the outside, an observer might not have noticed much change in my actions. I still made movies- still stretched my abilities. But internally, I was never the same again. I no longer do thiese things because I must do them – to make good on my potential, or stave off “failure” or whatever – I do them only because I like to. Because I enjoy it. And if no great notoriety of monetary rewards come along, that is fine. In fact, it’s not really any of my business.
Q: Where do you go or like to be in order to listen closely?
A: I don’t feel I need a particular place, although the shower tends to be a hot spot for epiphany.
Q: Do you have any particular practices that cultivate inner-listening?
A: In creative work inner-listening can be especially challenging, because creativity can and should be a wild free-for-all – not always conducive to stillness! If I need one good idea, I like to get my brain to storm out thirty possible ideas. These will come in all flavors: dumb, funny, vulgar, absurd – whatever my mind generates. I don’t judge these thoughts as they come, I just write them down. Then I reflect, and it’s in this quiet reflection that one idea usually rises and shows itself to be the very one I need. It’s very hard to think up one good creative idea, but it’s much easier to think up thirty terrible ideas and then discover that one of them isn’t terrible at all, but perfect.
Q: How do you distinguish true inner-listening from other types of thoughts?
A: My usual thoughts are moving so fast – a mile a minute. I know when I am truly hearing my inner truth when there is a stillness within.
Q: Whom do you admire?
A: John Lennon. David Lynch. Nina Simone. Jim Henson. Dr. Seuss. (All creative people – what a surprise!)
Q: Where can we learn more about you and your work?
A: My latest film is called “How to Make Movies at Home”, a DIY film about DIY filmmaking. You can find it at www.HowToMakeMoviesAtHome.com