“Nothing in all creation is so like God as silence.”
~ Meister Eckhart
I think many of us would affirm the desire to grow our skills in listening in order to listen better to other people. I know I do. Yet I’ve learned that in order to listen well to others, we must first learn to listen to ourselves. And in order to listen well to ourselves, we must first learn to listen to God.
Often we think that if we are not speaking we must be listening. It becomes a part of our vocabulary of opposites: hot/cold, wet/dry, light/dark, listening/speaking. Yet listening involves so much more. Our ability to listen deeply to others grows from our practice of living present. I can’t just walk in, sit down & say “todayI’m going to listen to you!” (Well, I could – but it wouldn’t be very helpful!)
Spiritual practices help prepare us to listen more deeply – not just in moments of conversation but, more importantly, to our very lives. Spiritual listening practices help us learn to hear “what wants to be said” and “what wants to be asked” and even “what wants to be done next.” These spiritual listening practices help us to hear the under note of anxiety in someone’s words that causes us to stop and open ourselves to holding another’s pain.
So we begin by seeking to listen more to God. There are many ways to do this, and what’s most important about them is to practice every day. Start off doing a little and add more as you gain strength.
Choose one practice each day and focus on it throughout the day. Or choose one practice and stick with it for a week. Notice which practices lead you to deeper awareness of God – incorporate them into your life.
Here are a few to try:
- Find a minute or two at the beginning of your day to center yourself. Simply breathe in and out slowly and, as you do, release your concerns to God. Connect to the Spirit within.
- Create a ritual to remind yourself to listen deeply. It might be lighting a candle or posting a reminder note to yourself. The note could simply have the word listenwritten on it.
- Listen for small sounds: a cat purring, people breathing, leaves rustling. These are the sounds that train us to find the wisdom in silence.
- Go for a walk and be mindful of each step. Notice everything that catches your eye and everything that you hear.
- When you park your car, take one minute to be in silence before getting out. This practice makes space for you to center yourself before going to work, running around on errands, or returning home.
- Savor the moments of centeredness. Acknowledge them with gratitude.