Listening from the Spiritual Heart

Today’s blog is by Keith Kristich

“An atmosphere of intentional prayer precedes and follows group sessions, permeating the time together, as all seek an attitude of trustful openness, ready to share what is given as the fruit of prayer and reflection, and ready to hear what arises in the silence and words of direction time.” ~Rose Mary Dougherty, SSND, Trusting Love

This summer I had the privilege of being a part of Shalem’s group spiritual direction retreat on the rolling grounds of the Bellfry retreat center. With the perfect blend of sound and silence, chant, song and quiet meditation, we were able to slowly transition from the typical monkey mind into the spiritual heart, where we would learn to listen deeply for the dynamic movement of God within another.

Throughout the weekend, we were invited by the head retreat leader, Anne Grizzle, into contemplative prayer through a three-part process:

First, show up and “hush.”
Second, slow down and “listen.”
Third, learn to just “be.”

These three invitations presented a gentle path into the spiritual heart. Our first duty was to show up, quiet down, and be willing to enter a receptive state of mind and spirit. We then learned to become comfortable in this quiet state with only the subtle effort of “listening.” Finally, if invited into the depths of contemplation, we would learn to rest and simply “be” in God. This three-part path guided us from effort to effortlessness, from action to receptivity, and from doing to being.

But for what purpose and to what end?

During group spiritual direction, we took turns deeply listening and deeply sharing about our personal and spiritual lives in God. While someone speaks about their life, others prayerfully listen for what may be of God moving in their lives.

During times of contemplative listening, I learned rather quickly that I had two very different capacities for listening. One of these was to listen through my ego-I, full of my own mental habit patterns, born of personality, personal preferences, assumptions, and interpretations of what the other is going through. But a second, much more subtle and fundamental form of listening, awoke a “heartful” way of listening: listening from the spiritual heart.

In group spiritual direction, I found that if I was not able to sink into the flow of hushing, listening, and being, I’d be in my ordinary awareness, seeing and hearing through my ordinary mind. But if I was able to sink into the flow and become simple, restful, open and receptive, I was able to listen from the space beyond my limited ego, attuned to the spiritual heart and the way God’s Spirit moves like the invisible wind within the other.

And I realized I couldn’t afford to not listen from the spiritual heart, for this isn’t about “my” spiritual journey—it was about the sacred journey of another. I must be immediately present— but my “I” must be soft, my “I” must be open, and my “I” must be receptive. I must become pliable, so that as “I” listen, imprints of the divine truth can be left within me.

It is a sacred honor to listen to the heart of another, to be trusted by another, and to be told of someone’s most intimate and difficult moments with the divine. And it is a beautiful thing to trust another as they learn to listen from the spiritual heart to the spiritual heart.

Today, I encourage you in your own way to consider how it is you may be able to step into the flow of hushing, listening, and being and further sink into the spiritual heart in God. Perhaps from that space, you will approach others with the sacred presence, openness, and a greater capacity for heartful listening, compassion, and love.


Editorial Correction: In last week’s blog, Pope John XXIII was incorrectly identified in the blog as Pope John XXII.  Please note that the correct Pope is Pope John XXIII.

October 10, 2019 by Keith Kristich 2 Comments
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