Listening to the Holy, listening to others and listening to ourselves are all vital to the spiritual life and journey. And to be able to truly listen in all these places requires both courage and vulnerability, for deep listening can both move and change us.
Br David Steindl-Rats reminds us that 'Without silence there can be no listening.' As I explore in 'Silent Mind, Holy Mind,' silence is the space in which words are heard. The Hebrew sage Solomon ibn Gabiol also says, 'The beginning of wisdom is silence. The second stage is listening.' You do not hear silence, but it is that by which you do hear. When our interior silence can actually feel and value the silence that surrounds everything else, we have entered the house of wisdom and can start to truly listen.
Spiritual direction work is all about listening in all these places and helping the person to notice, listen to and connect with the movement and breath of the Holy in their own stories, feelings and experiences in all of life. As the American
theologian Frederick Buechner so beautifully encourages us:
'Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.'
I shall be writing more on contemplative silence and listening in my Prayer Life Series. Meanwhile, I have recently come across this excellent TED talk video I want to share with you on the power of listening, particularly listening with the wisdom of the heart, and the life-changing impact it can have on individuals and communities.
'The Power of Listening: An Ancient Practice for Our Future' with Leon Berg