Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How to Not Be an Ant: Listening Lesson- Part 1

Okay, so as you know, I've been attempting to put into practice these "Listening as a Spiritual Practice" exercises- and the other day, I find myself at the Dollar store...

I had my cart loaded with items and was leaving the store when I realized that the cart had one of those poles on it that prevents you from taking it out of the store. I was stopped dead in my tracks at the door. I quickly began grabbing as many bags as I could carry to my car and as I looked behind me was horrified to see that I was inadvertently blocking someone else's exit from the store. I made a point to look directly into her eyes and smile as I apologized for my blocking her progress.

I think that the fact that I addressed her personally and intentionally, rather than just robotically saying a quick "Oops, I'm sorry" as I looked at the floor, made a huge difference in her response.

She said, "Where's your car?" and then began picking up the remainder of my shopping bags.

When we got to the car, I thanked her profusely and asked her her name; then, addressing her by name, I again thanked her profusely telling her that I wished I could repay her kindness.

"Just keep me in your prayers," she said as she turned to walk to her car.

"Cheryl, anything in specific you want me to pray for?" I called out to her as she was walking away.

She stopped dead in her tracks, turned back around and began walking back across the parking lot to me.

And so, in the parking lot outside of the Dollar Tree, this perfect stranger shared her concern for the salvation of her sons with me... And right there in the bright sunlight of a beautiful August morning on Main street in Newark, DE- I gave her a promise from scripture (Isaiah 54:13- all your children will be raised in peace) and we agreed in prayer, thanking God for his promise to raise her children according to that scripture.

We then gave each other a "high five," and got into our cars and drove away- both of us forever changed...

Wow. I'm sold. What a difference this makes!

I will continue to update you on my further progress...


Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Spirituality of Listening

I've been listening to a lot of voices who seem to be talking about the same subject: Listening.

Recently, I watched this excerpt from the movie Waking Life on YouTube:

"Zombie Auto-pilot"...Wow, what a frightening thought! If we're on auto-pilot, then there is no intentionality in our day-to-day life- and certianly no life in our life. Living that way, I'm sure is not living the abundant life to which Christ has call us.

It's got me wondering how often I am actually present in a conversation, waiting for the next words to be spoken...because, very often, the opposite is taking place- I am waiting for that person to finish speaking, so that I can convey my oh-so-important point.

That's not listening. That's not participating in conversation. It does violence to the other. It devalues their personhood. It lacks sensitivity and, most importantly, it is not Christlike.

I don't do it all the time- but I do it enough. So, I decided that I need to stop doing it altogether.

In conjunction with this, I am revisiting Henri Nouwen's A Spirituality of Waiting, and am realizing that to concept of listening and waiting are intricately connected. Nouwen describes a waiting that is active, not passive. He describes a waiting that leaves open space for the growth and nurture of "something." Finally, he discusses the importance of recognising the importance of and need for not only an active waiting, but a waiting period in which one is acted upon.

As I go about my day performing the mundane tasks that are required for continued existence, I am beginning to re-train myself to be present in the moment, present to the moment, and alive and waiting actively with expectation (pregnant hope, if your will) for something wonderful to burst forth. In doing so, every interaction with another becomes an opportunity to experience a divine appointment, and to be acted upon by God through the lives of others.

And so, I am on a journey to stop living like an ant...

In order to do this, I am going to actively strengthen my ability to practice the Spirituality of Waiting and the Spirituality of Listening.

Here are some tips I'm going to try in doing this that I got from reading a blog entitled Blog One Another:

Exercises to Develop the Spirituality of Listening:

•Observe yourself during conversations. When the other person is talking, are you listening, or are you thinking about what you will say next?
•Break out of "ant auto-pilot". The next time you are buying something and the cashier says, "How are you today," can you turn the programmed ritual into a conversation? Ask for their opinion about something, even something random. When they say, "Thank you and have a good day," don't reply, "Thanks, you too," as you look at your receipt. Instead, look them in the eyes, thank them by name, and give them a blessing.
•The next time you have a disagreement, ask yourself, "What if they are right?" Even with something you think is flat-out wrong, say a quick prayer: "Master, show me the grain of truth in what they are saying."
•When somebody agrees with you, remind yourself that they see the world through their own experiences, for their own purposes. Does that deflate your pride somewhat?
•Practice listening to strangers, acquaintances, colleagues, friends, and family. Try it at home, at work, at school, on the street. Where is it easier or harder? With whom is it easier or harder?
•Invite yourself to someones home for a meal. Invite others to your home. Listen, and let these moments change you.

I'll keep you posted on my progress...