Sunday, January 20, 2013

Listening As Spiritual Hospitality

"To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations.  True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known.   They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.
Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond.  Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings.  The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves.  Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you." 
~ Henri J.M. Nouwen
Have you ever got together with someone and had no intention of listening to anything they're saying whatsoever? I've been guilty of doing this on many occasions. Instead, I want a platform to raise my complaints, concerns, self-aggrandizement, gossip or any manner of things. Why is this? Why can't I be quiet?

It is difficult to be quiet with another person and thus actually hear them when you are not interiorly free. People who have a regular prayer or meditation practice, or who see a therapist or spiritual director have a lot more space to actually be present and not have to talk all the time when they are approached by a person.

I was recently given a great gift. I was approached by a person with Downs Syndrome and I could tell that all they wanted was to be heard. I had a very real choice. I could have brushed them off and not heard them, or I could stop in my tracks and truly listen to what was on their mind. I'm glad I chose the latter; the moments we spent together were a gift to us both.

Let's all try to intentionally be more present with each other.

Mark Andrew Alward