As I prepare for our next cohort in The Art of Deep Listening, I remember some of the reasons we created this course. It is a spiritual direction formation program for those who are looking for training in spiritual direction, yet, at its heart, it is about experiencing what Deep Listening is all about. Both Michelle and I are believers in the power of truly being present to another. Especially in a world that seems too moving into short, fast communication, open to the entire world that happens through devices. Now, I am a gadget girl and love my devices, yet at the same time, as a contemplative, I am trying to learn how to be conscious, aware, and intentional about my devices.
Currently I am reading Krista Tippett’s new book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. One interview in the book was with one of my favorite authors, Rachael Naomi Remen. She uses the term “generous listening” for what we call Deep Listening. As a culture, there is movement where a question is about an answer, a fact or to get to the next point one wants to make. When shall we meet? Who are you voting for? Sometimes I wonder if the person asking really cares about my answer, or whether there is an agenda behind it, or they are looking for lots of “likes.” There is a place for fact-finding or getting to the next point, yet if that is all we know, we are truly missing an opportunity to connect in a way that creates a space for Divine Presence to bring something bigger to our lives.
Generous, deep listening begins with a desire to see the light in the other. It is motivated by true curiosity and vulnerability. These types of questions aren’t even looking for an answer because the person, as Tippett puts it, may be still living into the answer. A deep question can change a life. Deep questions are hard to resist because the person who asks really wants to engage the person they are speaking with.
Deep questions invite stories. Think about when someone new comes into a community and they ask, “Why do you do this this way?” This is when the story begins; the question may bring a renewed beauty to the community or it may cause the community to keep questioning whether that practice is necessary.
As Pathways of Grace moves forward, we will be fostering a place where we can develop deep listening. Currently, the The Art of Deep Listening, Spiritual Direction, and groups like Dinner and Conversation will provide a space to truly be present to each other. In 2017, Michelle and I will be expanding the idea of Deep Listening for those who may not want the 7-month spiritual direction training yet wish to develop the skill of curious questions and vulnerability. Another way Pathways of Grace will be fostering this is to make the groups a device-free zone. When you come to spend time in community, you will be leaving your devices safely by the door and remember what it is like not to be connected to the entire world but to the person sitting with you.
As you move through your week, notice your questions and interactions with others. Where have you practiced deep or generous listening? What type of questions come up in that generous conversation? May you have ears to hear and hearts to listen.