Beloved St. John’s community,
In my Ash Wednesday sermon I talked about one potential way to fast during lent: to fast from too many words, in order to commit to listening. To listen deeply to one another, especially across lines of difference. To listen beneath the surface of our minds to what our deepest selves are saying. To listen to the sentient beings of the natural world, and to the wind and the water. Ultimately, to listen to the Spirit.
I perhaps spoke about the “what” and the “why” of listening, but I didn’t say how. Ironically, I myself ended up talking too much to someone after the service. 😊 The impulse to speak runs deep in us, and it isn’t all bad. But unthinking, reflexive addiction to speaking can prevent the development of other, critical parts of who we are: a sensitivity of heart and soul, and an awareness of the vast interconnected web of life in which we are not the center.
For this week, my own practice is about three things:
- Setting my daily intention to listen, and asking God to help me with this
- Cultivating compassionate curiosity, and not judgment
- Seeking opportunities to listen fully, until a person has felt completely heard and has no more to say
There are two videos about listening that I think might help us listen to one another better. Consider watching Simon Senek’s 5-minute video about the Art of Listening. And then, consider watching his longer, 52-minute video about “Extreme Listening”—the story of Muslim woman Deeyah Khan’s choice to deeply listen to white supremacists who had been threatening her life.
Finally, this coming Saturday, the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, together with the Episcopal House of Prayer, is hosting an event called Depolarizing: Respecting Others with Different Beliefs. It’s a training in how to use the contemplative approach to hold opposites in tension, in order to avoid seeing those we disagree with as enemies. Lunch is provided, and there is no charge, though they do request an RSVP.
Please share your own stories of listening to one another this lent. Let us commit to listen deeply to one another and to God.
In love and curiosity,