A great shofar sounds, and a still small voice is heard.
This line is at the centerpiece of the services for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The concept of the “still, small voice” is one that I’ve explored in depth for the past few years. And it’s been a cornerstone of my practice this past year.
Several months ago, in the midst of my first year of a home-free adventure, I started to describe my journey as a “Listening Tour.” Some people were confused. What was I “listening” to? When I explained I was listening to the “still, small, voice” within, many people looked at me like I was speaking another language.
What is the still, small voice?
The still, small voice is the voice of your higher wisdom. It’s the heart-whisper that tells you to go in the direction of the path you fear to tread. It’s the sensation you get when you’re about to embark on a big step in your journey. The still, small voice is the voice of your soul, the intuition that often gets drowned out by the louder voices telling you why something won’t work, or why your instinct isn’t rational, or what could go wrong.
How do you hear it?
First, you should know that everyone hears the still, small voice from time to time. But we are culturally conditioned to ignore this voice in favor of the more “rational” internal and external voices.
The still, small voice won’t shout to compete with the louder voices. In fact, the more that other noises compete with it, the quieter it gets. And the more you ignore it, the harder it is to hear.
The key to hearing the still, small voice is to listen for it. And to listen for it requires stillness. You cannot listen to it while you’re running around, racing from one thing to the next. The still, small voice speaks in the soul. To hear it you must enter its chamber.
How does the sound of the shofar help?
You might wonder: if the still small voice won’t compete with noise, how can it compete with the wail of the shofar?
The shofar, with its piercing wail, cuts through the noise to create a space for the still, small voice to be heard.
Consider how a clearing appears in the road after an ambulance races through, and the environment suddenly feels quiet when the sirens fade away.
This is what happens internally when we hear the shofar.
The piercing cry clears space within us, forcing us out of the trance of daily activity. Like the ambulance, the sound of the shofar commands our attention; it forces us to pull over and pause. The vibration of its sound clears our thoughts and our sensations. As its sound fades, it leaves behind silence and stillness in which the still, small voice arises.
How can you create this without a shofar?
The shofar calls us once a year. But we can create this environment for the still, small voice to arise any time. All it takes is a willingness to pause in our busy days, to create space in which the still, small voice has a chance to be heard.
And a willingness to listen to the voice within.