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The day I spotted the tiger swallowtail butterfly dancing on my flowers continues to linger in my soul.
My immediate reaction was “to do.” I grabbed my camera and joined him in the garden, snapping away to capture that moment.
Yet to take the closest photographs, I had to stop and stand very, very still. At one point I even thought my new friend might land on my arm, thinking I was part of the garden. I lean so near to him, for a moment I almost heard the flutter of his wings.
Experts say butterflies cannot hear, but they can feel vibrations.
We can hear, but do we listen?
Listening – what a spiritual discipline we all need to develop. I know at least I do.
Teach me to listen, Lord.
Listening, whether to God, to others, or to our true selves, mean stopping and standing so still you can “hear” the vibrations.
“For listening is the act of entering the skin of the other and wearing it for a time as if it were our own. Listening is the gateway to understanding. “ David Spangler in Parent as Mystic, Mystic as Parent
Listening to God and really hearing others is getting so close we feel the vibrations of their hearts.
Stop. Stand Still. Listen.
Like any spiritual discipline, listening takes intentional practice. I can’t just pull a switch and become a better listener. Stopping what I am doing and find even a few minutes of silence each day nourishes my listening. Savoring sights and sounds God presents us with every moment also helps me learn.
I keep these two chairs in my office and often look at them when I pray. They symbolize Jesus in one chair, listening to me, even when I don’t have any words. Their emptiness also reminds me to come with an unoccupied open heart to receive whatever God is sending me, to really hear Him. The chairs represent the sacred space between two people as they listen to one another.
Listening involves begin empty for the other person – letting go of what you want to say or a need to be right or your urge to fix the problem – and just give them the gift of being present.
Mother Teresa’s quote (see two posts down from this post) continues to strike me that listening nourishes our relationship with God.
Teach me to listen, Holy Spirit.
Paying attention implies an effort, a cost on my side. I let go of my wants, my self-talk, my doubts, and fears. Drawing that close – to really feel another person’s vibrations – makes me feel vulnerable. Standing that still lowers my defenses. Becoming one with another or Another, part of myself fades away. Listening joins our souls together and I emerge a different person.
I am not sure where God is leading me as I listen, but I know He invites all of us to practice and grow in this discipline.
Found this prayer the other day by John Veltri, S.J., a Canadian spiritual director and expert guide for those presenting the Spiritual Exercises:
Teach me to listen, O God, to those nearest me, my family, my friends, my co-workers.
Help me to be aware that no matter what words I hear, the message is, “Accept the person I am. Listen to me.”
Teach me to listen, my caring God, to those far from me– the
whisper of the hopeless, the plea of the forgotten, the cry of the anguished.
Teach me to listen, O God my Mother, to myself. Help me to be less afraid to trust the voice inside — in the deepest part of me.
Teach me to listen, Holy Spirit, for your voice — in busyness and in boredom, in certainty and doubt, in noise and in silence.
Teach me, Lord, to listen. Amen.
What helps you to practice listening?