We are in our fifth week of spiritual practices for tough times. This week’s spiritual practice is “Deep Listening.” So far, each week we have tried something, and then come back the following week to report on our experiences. After gratitude, we practiced generosity; then patience, which needed two weeks (at least!!!!), and then this last week, we practiced joy. It’s a challenge to remember joyful things in the midst of trials and troubles, but joy is one of the gifts of the Spirit, and it’s also something we can offer as people of faith to a world in need. This week’s “Deep Listening” is one of my favorites. Here is what we will be doing. We invite you to practice along with us!
Spiritual Practice—Week V
Deep Listening: this is a phrase we can use when referring to compassionate, non-judging, empathetic listening. Deep listening includes all the other practices we have tried so far. Gratitude, for example, is part of listening: we feel grateful for the opportunity to be with someone we are listening to. Generosity, we offer the person our time, without judgment, without denial, without interrupting. Patience is present, as well, in deep listening, for we wait attentively as the other person talks, or whatever it is we are listening to, God, nature, a symphony; we listen without being distracted, and when someone stops speaking, we don’t offer our opinions, or advice, just our empathy, and perhaps we may ask clarifying questions, to make sure we understand. Joy comes into play, because when one person understands another, joy rises up—it is a wonderful experience to be listened to. Take time to check in this week, 4X each day, to see how we have been listening. When did I listen? How did I listen?
Deep listening includes listening to ourselves. For example, we could listen in to ourselves for a few minutes, listening to our bodies with self-empathy, with acceptance, listening in to our thoughts, perhaps, and offering them quiet reassurance. Can we listen to ourselves with self-compassion? Take a few minutes to sit quietly, or if you are in the middle of the day, just take a quick time out, and notice how your body is feeling. Where is the tension? What thoughts are going through your mind? What are you needing? Take the time to listen to what your body is saying, and to offer compassion for yourself, or acceptance, whatever it is, whatever feeling it is; just pay quiet loving attention to those feelings, or tensions, or aches, or thoughts will help us hear ourselves better. In turn, when we have listened to ourselves deeply, and are more attuned to ourselves, our feelings and thoughts, we are better able to listen to others more deeply.
Deep listening doesn’t require us to “say” anything. It does require our openness to hear what’s there. We can practice this way of listening anytime anywhere, even subversively. It’s a form of empathy, and in the words of one of my coaches: “people melt when they receive empathy.” Listening leads to understanding, and understanding opens us to love.
Some aspects of deep listening:
Presence. You need to be there, you need to show up, without distractions. Take time to feel grounded first, to be in yourself and ready to listen.
Empathic presence: an open attitude to the other person, or to yourself, or whatever you are listening to. A willingness to see/hear the world from another perspective.
Quiet attention: Suspend the impulse to judge, to comment, to interrupt, to analyze, to give advice with our own ideas or perspectives. The goal is to hear the other person as fully as possible without our own filters. Listen for the feelings and tones in the other’s voice, listen to their body language. We can often help another person relax by being relaxed while they are speaking, or sitting quietly.
Prayerful attention: As we are listening, invite God to be present also. This doesn’t have to be done outloud; we can do it as we are listening; simply ask for assistance in hearing what is being said.