“This is my Son
Whom I love,
Listen to him.”
This is one of my favourite scriptures. If you place yourself at the scene of the Mount of Transfiguration, you can almost hear the voice of God booming with love over his Beloved Son, Jesus. Peter makes a suggestion that they stay there and build a shelter. It is very tempting to think of setting up a shelter in the glory of God’s presence. But the reality of His presence can only be conveyed to others, when we take what we have heard, down the mountain and into our daily lives.
I received some life changing teaching in the year 2000 from Mark Virkler on how to commune with God in a conversational way, by using journaling as a listening prayer tool. This helped me to break through in my relationship with God, a tendency towards self-reproach, which was often draining the enjoyment out of my times with God. The love God has for Jesus inspires me to listen to Him. As I come to learn to love myself with the love God has for me, it opens up a way to hear in a deeper and more meaningful way.
The practice of listening is the joy of relationship. True engaged listening is a gift we give to ourselves, to others and to God. Before we were married, my husband Karl and I went to a Listening course which opened up some meaningful discussion. And I began to put into practice some of these listening skills when I realised that my style of showing how I listened so well, by finishing off my husband’s sentences all the time, was not his way of feeling listened to at all! And I’m still working on it!
We can all learn to practice the skills of listening. The word “Listen!” can even hold some negative connotations for parents who are trying to make themselves heard with their kids. I hear myself saying that with a measure of exasperation sometimes, even though I realise that you cannot force listening. For active listening to take place, we need to come together with our children and have unbroken, respectful communication which happens best in a space of loving connection. Ideally yes, but in actuality, not always! But again, I’m working on it! How wonderful to know that God is always available with the best listening ears as our Father and Mother, who is constantly inviting us into relational communion.
Of great importance in the practice of listening is to make time for listening to yourself. This is just as important as listening to others, because when you feel heard by your own self, you will feel more able to listen to the thoughts and opinions of others. Sometimes we can rush around so much, our emotions and thoughts are trying to speak to us, but we don’t give them space to be heard.
The wisdom of the Spirit is communicated through quiet inner listening. When we allow this wisdom to be communicated, we don’t feel as much inclined to de-stress in other unhealthy ways. And we come to realise this will not come through other people’s affirmations, but through becoming the kindest friend towards ourselves in the knowledge that we are daughters and sons of the Living God. Unconditional love is one of the most important commandments, as Jesus explained that to Love God, love your neighbour as you love yourself, sums up all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40) It is a simple and yet profound truth!
All to say, listening is a beautiful and very valuable gift that is rare in our society. It is something to be nourished and encouraged mindfully amongst ourselves. It is a practice I desire to deepen in my life and so I share with you some of the things that help me along the way:
- Lie flat, or sit down in a comfortable place and become aware of your breathing. As you breathe in and out and focus your attention on the rhythm of your breath, you become more able to hear the wisdom of God in the still small voice of silence.
- Quiet music without words as a backdrop of prayer enriches the listening experience.
- I can recommend John Belt. You may find out more and download some music here:
- As you relax your mind and cease striving, conversational prayer begins to open up.
- You can listen to Mark Virkler’s Keys to hearing God’s voice here:
- Time set apart for self nurture and listening in these ways helps to balance the body, soul and mind with the daily requirements of life.
- This wonderful Centering Prayer App from Contemplative Outreach is a very helpful: http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/centering-prayer-mobile-app
- Listening to nature helps us to slow into the pace of God’s ways, as we observe the constant rhythmic and cyclical patterns in all of creation. Many messages are waiting for us in nature as parables for us to hear.
- Looking at your favourite art pieces and waiting with the visual experience, allows room for listening. A painting that speaks to you in volumes may hold a message God has for you at the present time.
- Listening to others with our full attention is a wonderful practice of silencing the mind. We put aside finishing other people’s sentences, jumping in with advice or solutions, and trying to control the conversation. We can all learn to receive others more fully as we offer the gift of fully present listening. There is a joy in feeling fully received when you are listened to without distraction. We can learn to offer this joyful practice to others, because we know the healing it brings when we have experienced this ourselves.
- Meditative practices such as playing an instrument, colouring in, Zentangle, dance, mindful exercise, walking a labyrinth, painting… there are many creative ways that help us to slow down and engage with the present moment of listening.
- A meditative practice to try is Zentangle, you can find out more here:http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Zentangle
- Here are some finger labyrinths you may like to try: http://labyrinths.org/resources/resourcesforfacilitators.html
We are all called to listen on a daily basis, but mindful listening is something that only happens as we become more aware and practice. A precious gift given to another person who has felt heard in the deeper sense, releases a healing flow.
In which ways are you feeling drawn to practice listening to yourself, to others and to God?
Take some time to rest with God and this beautiful song “Listen” by Laura Woodley Osman: