December 16, 2021
Day 19: Deep Listening
Have you recently listened – I mean, really listened to someone?
I really try. I mean, I very much try to be as fully open and as fully available to others as I can be as I listen to them with ears and heart wide open. I am sorry to say I do not succeed all the time. But, I do try. Sometimes, I even succeed. Sometimes.
I reached back in my memory and I found two instances where I worked on practicing deep listening. First, in my first year of seminary. I took a spiritual formation course on prayer and several other spiritual exercises. I really wanted to engage with the exercises as well as my fell all in.ow students, so you might say that I was all in. With both feet.
All of us class members gathered together at a retreat center to immerse ourselves into prayer practices. I vividly remember listening with close attention to my fellow students. I can’t exactly explain how or why the time in that retreat center was especially graced, but it was. I felt my insides open to my fellow students in a particularly deep way. Almost as if our class was particularly blessed by God.
The second memory came from a class during my fifth semester, one where I had the opportunity to take a course at another seminary in Chicago, on the south side, in Hyde Park. I took this course called Spirituality and Survivors of Human Rights Abuse. Yes, it was as difficult and heart-wrenching as it sounds. The course made tremendous impressions on me, and on my fellow classmates, too.
The professor for this very special course was a former overseas missionary who had first-hand knowledge and understanding of this challenging topic. The professor divided the class (around 30 or so students) into smaller circles. We would discuss the readings, the topics of each week, and each one’s personal reflections on the whole course time, that fall semester.
Yes, the course held powerful first-person narratives, in which we were permitted into some horrific experiences. These precious people related their experiences and told how powerfully God had worked through those experiences, and transformed each of them from victims of horror and abuse into powerful survivors. God transformed their witness, as well, as only God can.
In both courses, I drew great satisfaction from both the listening and the learning. Both listening experiences were transformative to me, in somewhat different ways.
The first, the course on prayer practices and spiritual direction, had a soft, gentle feeling, gently and gradually shaping my soul and spirit inside. The second – ah, the circles of hearing and listening, the group experiences of hearing, receiving those first-person narratives – that was transformative in a whole different kind of way. I deeply honored those dear ones who willingly came and shared their lives, and shared their ongoing stories.
As the second course continued, I could feel my person, my soul being radically moved and shaken by these narratives. Again and again we as a class were permitted – allowed – even, welcomed into a space of holiness and compassion. Yes, this truly was deep listening.
Dear Lord, thank You for these precious experiences. Thank You for these precious people, both those in my classes as well as those we were privileged to hear. Continue to work with us, work with our hearts, minds and souls as we continue to walk more closely with You. In our Lord’s precious name, amen.
Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.