I love to sit out on my balcony. We have created a lovely little oasis out there of plants and flowers nestled among soft vanilla and citronella scented candles. It’s a peaceful place to sit any time of day but mostly in the afternoon and evening when the Sun has moved to the other side of the building and the soft indirect light eliminates bright green grass and fluffy full trees.

With fewer cars on the road these days, wildlife emerges occasionally – raccoons and dear venture out to reclaim their native landscape. There are so many beautiful birds in this area, and I have gotten accustomed to their many different voices and songs. Whereas those dulcet tones had simply been a part of the BGM of my living experience in the past, I find myself tuning into the subtle communications more than ever before thanks to the diminished distractions.

Listening to the birds today, I became aware of the nuances of their communication with each other – six chirps in a row followed by a longer vocalization. Three chirps followed by one chirp and then another. I like to imagine the birds are communicating things like “Hey look over here, there’s food” or “Hey watch out, that little black cat is on the road again” or even “There’s a squirrel in my tree, help me” or even “I love you family.” I wonder which of them is sending out communications of love and safety and which are sending requests for love and safety. I guess I believe that all birds speak bird on some level to help eachother meet their needs. Even though their songs sound different, they have an instinctive knowing what those sounds mean and share an intuitive understanding across the species in their neighborhood. The different birds may not be able to decrypt distinctions of other individual bird languages, but I believe they get the gist. This would be very efficient for nature in terms of survival in an ecosystem – to generalize because it’s safer than not.

In the same way, we humans also generalize cross culturally. It’s efficient. It’s safer than not. And in doing so, we get the gist of the “oh no” and the “help me” and we generally know what “I love you” and “please love me” sounds like without being experts in other languages. In generalizing, like those birds, we also likely miss some of the more subtle communications among our own species. But they are there – artful expressions that are actually requests for love or requests for safety; communications of love and gestures of safety. Broadcasts of love toward others, broadcasts of alert for the benefit and safety of others are imbedded in our verbal and physical communications. We miss them because of our filter for how we see ourselves, the world and others. We miss them, because of our need to protect ourselves from hurt and pain. We miss them because we judge the song shrill or loud. We dismiss them because we want, no, expect them to be communicated in our native tongue. But they are there. As clear and resonate as the bird song.

Right now, your family, your friends, the world is reaching out with offers of love and safety while simultaneously crying out for love and safety. Listen, really listen. It is there. The communications of love and gestures of safety are easy to spot. The direct requests may not be as obvious, after all over the years, many requests have been met with resistance or dismissal, so they may now be cleverly cloaked in indirect clever jargon. Yet, now more than ever, when we are enjoying an exclusive opportunity to connect with those closest to us, we have the gift time to study the nuances of the communication. We have been granted the gift of time to observe the unique expressions of love and safety and notice the nuances in the cries for love and safety to help meet needs better than ever before; to appreciate the gestures of love and safety and the cries for love and safety embedded in foreign tongue. The question is, are you listening? Or are you waiting to hear it in your own tongue before you respond?

Chances are, if you are not considering communication from this angle, you are missing this dance we are doing to meet our needs and you will find listening hard. But it’s only hard because it’s new. And new becomes familiar, and then it becomes easy and with repetition, it becomes a habit.

So, in your interactions with others, before you respond or react, breathe and ask in your mind what is this person communicating? What need might they be meeting? To provide for another or to be provided for? Listen and observe. If you had to put someone’s communication with you in one of four buckets, what would you hear?

Is this a request for love?
Is this a request for safety?
Is this an offer of love?
Is this an offer for my safety?

If those were the only choices you had, and you put aside for the moment, the notion that it was an attack, how would you respond? You would likely do what the birds do…call out and rally your resources to help others meet their needs.

Meeting the needs of the world starts with helping those closest to you meet their needs. And appreciating communication in a new way is almost certain to model a new way of being in the ecosystem where you live that circles back to become more of what you too want to see in others and puts you in greater service to the world. And as the saying goes, “put your air mask on before you adjust the masks of those around you.” So too is learning the nuances of your own song. It is not only fair, but necessary. So this week consider:

What are some of the direct and indirect ways I cry out for love?
What are some of the direct and indirect ways I cry out for safety?
What are some of the direct and indirect ways I offer love?
What are some of the direct and indirect ways I offer safety?

You may just find that your song has been just as cryptic to those in your nest as theirs has been to you.