Listening-Learning, Dadirri The Aboriginal Gift

silent place
One of the themes at the Sydney Mental Health Co-ordinating Council’s conference in June earlier this year was listening and learning from each other across disciplines and cultures. Some of the presenters spoke about ‘dadirri’.
Here is Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Bauman’s reflection on her lived experience of ‘dadirri':
… What I want to talk about is another special quality of my people.  I believe it is the most important.  It is our most unique gift.  It is perhaps the greatest gift we can give to our fellow Australians.  In our language this quality is called ‘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 …
In our Aboriginal way, we learnt to listen from our earliest days.  We could not live good and useful lives unless we listened.  This was the normal way for us to learn.  We learnt by watching and listening, waiting and then acting.  Our people have passed on this way of listening for over 40,000 years.
As we grow older, we ourselves become the storytellers.  We pass on to the young ones all they must know.  The stories and songs sink quietly into our minds and we hold them deep inside.   The contemplative way of dadirri spreads over our whole life.  It renews us and brings us peace.  It makes me feel whole again.
And now I would like to talk about the other part of dadirri which is the quiet stillness and the waiting.
Our Aboriginal culture has taught us to be still and to wait.  We do not try to hurry things up.  We let them follow their natural course – like the seasons.  We watch the moon in each of its phases.  We wait for the rain to fill our rivers and water the thirsty earth …
When the twilight comes, we prepare for the night.  At dawn we rise with the sun.  We watch the bush foods and wait for them to ripen before we gather them.  We wait for our young people as they grow, stage by stage, through their initiation ceremonies.  We don’t mind waiting, because we want things done with care.  We don’t like to hurry.  There is nothing more important than what we are attending to.
There is nothing more urgent that we must hurry away for.
We are River people.  We cannot hurry the river.  We have to move with its current and understand its ways.”
And to end this post, some words from Leunig:
God help us to live slowly;
To move simply;
To look softly;
To allow emptiness;
To let the heart create for us.
Leunig, M (1991) The Prayer Tree, HarperCollins, Aus.


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