Week 3:  Conversation

Without the seeming divide between the sacred and secular, all of our daily practices can be opened up to God -- sleeping, studying, reading, working, cleaning, eating, even conversing with another person.

Spiritual Practice Details:

So much of our conversation is dominated by thinking about our reply, defending our positions, and projecting our agenda. In this practice we want to cultivate a culture of contemplative listening or deep listening. This moves us toward listening to others in a way that helps us sense the presence of God in them and hear the voice of God in the other. It is listening in a non-reactive, non-judgmental, compassionate, and grace-filled way.

  1. Find a person with whom you can converse, ideally for at least 15 minutes, and set your intention. This can be a spontaneous conversation with a co-worker or boss, a friend, or peer; or you can invite someone to a conversation. Ask for God’s help in uncovering God’s presence in the conversation partner and practicing self-control and self-restraint. Intend to seek to highest good of the conversation partner.
  2. Allow the person to set a topic and actively listen. Allow them to lead with what is on their mind. Look at the speaker. Give audible (uh-huh) and physical (nodding) affirmation that you hear your partner speaking. If appropriate, take notes. Reflect and repeat what you hear the person saying. Ask open-ended, clarifying questions that validate the other person’s thoughts they are sharing. 

  3. When a judgment or reaction arises within you, notice it and refocus your attention on the speaker. Self-focused distractions happen and may always happen. The trick is not to feed it, but to allow it to come and let it pass. Turn your attention back to the speaker and continue to listen.

  4. Deeply listen with all your senses. Pray for the person while listening. What do you see in the face of the speaker? What is their body language showing? How are they dressed? What emotions and tone come through their words? What histories emerge? Where is the person’s energy being drawn? Allow the person the protected time and space to explore inner and outer worlds and arrive at their own revelations and conclusions with your support.

  5. Reflect and respond with thankfulness. What might God be doing in the life of this person or in the conversation? How could this conversation be light in this world? Do you have direction about how to pray for and encourage this person after this conversation?

To listen to another person we have to be grounded ourselves. We improve our ability to listen to others by practicing listening to ourselves. Contemplatively listening to others, in turn, improves our ability to listen to ourselves. In finding God in our conversation partner, we sometimes learn to find God in ourselves. This “Deep Listening” is, after all, another name for God and exactly what God practices with us. And God invites us to engage in deep listening to God through conversations with others, especially strangers, widows, orphans, and enemies.

Tips

  • Be fully present with your whole self and all your senses in the present moment.

  • Be comfortable with silence.

  • Limit your responses. Deep listening does not require you to respond with every question that comes into your mind. Employ empathy, restraint, and love.

  • Ask open-ended questions.

  • Remember to avoid the common Western Christian trap of assuming every conversation partner is a victim in need of your rescue. Sometimes the only need your partner has is to give, share, or bless another.

  • Here are some thoughts to help you choose a recipient (conversation partner):

    • Someone that you love or respect, but have never shown them so

    • Someone you haven’t contacted for a while

    • Someone who is going through a tough time

    • Someone you want to thank for something

    • Someone who might be lonely

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Where might God have been present in the conversation?

  2. What might God be doing in the life of your conversation partner?

  3. What value did you find in your conversation partner?

  4. How easy or difficult was it to practice active listening?

  5. How easy or difficult was it to practice non-judgmental, grace-filled deep listening?

  6. What needs arose of your conversation partner, whether a need for something or a need to share something?

Group Variations

Additional Resources:

Click on the image below to be redirected to the resource.

Contemplative Listening: A Simple, How-To Guide Patheos

Contemplative Listening: A Simple, How-To Guide
Patheos

Contemplative Listening Elizabeth Leibert

Contemplative Listening
Elizabeth Leibert

Listening with the Heart: Contemplative Conversation Sister Rosemary Nudd

Listening with the Heart: Contemplative Conversation
Sister Rosemary Nudd

 

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

-Stephen Covey

 

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