Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > the sacred art of Listening


the sacred art of Listening

communion arising in relaxed receptivity

Apr 23, 2019

Saying For Today: So, listening is not a matter of the ear or thinking, but of the whole body being totally alert, but not tense. This listening is a relaxed receptivity.

+ Quiet +

listening, spiritually, is first
not listening for something, like a message or inner guidance,
but simply listening
we could call this watching
we could refer to this by open awareness or being-presence
then listening to the inner voice can arise from this prior listening

* * *

* * *

It seems to me, children are receptive to that still small voice. Then, we grow up and the capacity of thought develops in our training to function as an independent self among others, and the still small voice is banished to the background. Some return to this childlikeness and in innocence of heart relearn to listen. Possibly, this is a reason so many persons seem to feel a need to talk or be entertained by noise so much. Have they forgotten how to listen, a listening arising from the quietness of the heart? Have they forgotten that listening is possible? If we do not listen, we live captive to distraction, even what we may see as helpful or healthy distraction. If we listen, being together becomes communion, even if for a few moments in meeting someone during our daily routine. With listening totally, present fully to another, communion can arise in just one moment. The entire spiritual life is a process of learning to listen, so to live in communion with other beings, not only human.

* * *

we speak of listening to
while listening as sacred art is never listening to
this listening is always a listening with
for arising from union into communion

even when one is speaking
in this communion of listening
he or she is still listening

the listening is the act of communion
regardless of who speaks and who does not speak
such is the mystery

in which communion acts
as co-union
happening in the timeless now
in divine Love

* * *

15If you have ears, pay attention!
16You people are like children sitting in the market and shouting to each other,

17"We played the flute,
but you would not dance!
We sang a funeral song,
but you would not mourn!"

*Gospel of Matthew 11 (CEV)

* * *

I sit around the table with three new acquaintances. They are speaking with me of joining their Quaker intentional community. I would be living in the house and participating in the upkeep of the house and decision-making, they explain. I would, also, cook dinner once weekly.

Here, the art of listening shows itself. For some reason, I feel a little at unease, likely related to facing another move, a new beginning, and living with others. I have lived most of my adult life by myself. And I have not cooked for others, only for myself. I would likely have to look up something like 'Simple Meals to Cook' on the internet as a beginning. I mostly microwave my meals, and my meals are ready to be thrown directly in, so requiring no preparation from me.

So, here, I seem to be fully present, calm, but with this unease, listening as these dear ones speak with me. I sit, with the prospect that I would be the only male in the house. I do not find that problematic, but I am aware that is part of the transition. I mean little things, like sharing the same restroom with all females, when I have not shared such a space with anyone for years. My restroom has been 'my' restroom. I have not had to work things like bathing or showering around others. I just did this when I was ready to do it. Also, the last time I shared a house with anyone, was with all men.

I felt a little overwhelmed, glad to be there, and glad to leave to give space to pray about and meditate on this matter of saying "Yes" or "No, Thank you" to the invitation. I was almost fully settled in "Yes," but requested a brief few days to engage in discernment. So, here I was listening, and the listening would continue when I left, on this prospect. I have learned not to rush into major decisions, and I have learned the hard way - the suffering which ensued from making choices that were not in the best interest of anyone involved, including me. This means, likewise, to be cautious if anyone is pressuring me to make such a decision quickly.

* * *

Yet, what is this listening? This listening that is central to the Quakers, or Society of Friends, with whom this community is affiliated. This listening has been central, likewise, to the wisdom path I have followed for the last 24 plus years: the contemplative life. Of course, not that I have consistently listened well or always listened, for I have not. I am still learning this art of listening, as I get older and, at least, a little wiser. Still, we are left with the question: What is this listening?

* * *

This listening is not hearing. One could hear his or her whole life, and die never having listened with anyone or anything. That I have heard someone or something does not mean I have listened.

* * *

any being in Nature
has a capacity inborn
to communicate itself

listening means we can listen with
human and non-human beings

any being, not only humans, has
an innate capacity to communicate itself based on its nature

* * *

Leaving the house last evening, I recalled what had arisen to me during the sharing at the table. That first word in the Rule of Benedict, from the 1500s, "Listen." The entire community ethic of Benediction spirituality flows from the art of listening. If we do not listen, we cannot proceed wisely along the path, whatever path of grace we choose.

* * *

”Listen!” … I could spend the rest of my life pondering the implications of that one word. It plungers me at once into a personal relationship. It takes me away from the danger of talking about God and not communing with him. [I]t is good to ask myself how I hear God. I must remember it is an encounter, ...
*Esther de Waal. A Life-Giving Way: A Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict.

* * *

In an interview by James Lipton, with actor Ron Howard, Howard was asked how he learned his lines when a child and still unable to read. He said his father told him not to worry about what he was to say next. Howard was to focus attention on what the other actor was saying. He was to respond to that. Howard recalled, “When you listen to what is being said to you, then you know what comes next.”

*James Lipton. “Inside the Actor's Studio.” C-Span 2. 1999.

This reply sounds much like the teaching, arising out of Vedanta, as seen with the late Jean Klein. Klein would refer to action arising out of the moment spontaneously. His point being, pure action, from essence, does not arise from the past. When fully present, alert, responsive, and passive, what to say or do arises out of the moment, not memory. In this, then, listening totally in the moment becomes one with responding totally in the moment. Everything happens in a single now.

The memory has a function in certain practical details of life. I brush and floss my teeth, based on memory, at least until such becomes something done automatically. With memory, we learn new tasks and memory weakens only with time and practice of the act. Yet, there are decisions and acts not functional and, so, arise from spirit, or Spirit. We refer to spiritual discernment to speak of the listening process here.

* * *

When I informed, last evening, I needed some time for discernment, that meant to listen in a way I am fully receptive to any thoughts or feelings that might arise. This listening can include subtle energy or sensations. So, listening is not a matter of the ear or thinking, but of the whole body being totally alert, but not tense. This listening is a relaxed receptivity. The body is awakened to listen, and this is a purpose of spiritual practice - not to transcend the body, but awaken the body, to sensitize the body to the subtle energies of Grace. And when the whole body listens, this shifts listening from the ear and brain, for with the brain we tend to intellectualize, and the attachment to thinking blocks the flow of deeper energies of arising insight, or in-seeing, rather than out-seeing.

* * *

I got up from sleep and had devotion, prior to going for a job interview. I prayed to Spirit to show me in some way that He, She, was present and in control of this interview process. After the interview I went to eat. The waitress placed my bill on the table. I joyfully and surprised read the name - the first time I had met anyone with the name Brianna. Oddly, this is the name I joke with friends about when I refer to my feminine side: my name is Brian. This providential weaving of events alerted me to the humor of Life. I took “Brianna” as Spirit saying, “Hey! I'm here. I'm in control. I'm taking care of this job matter” I would have missed this divine providence had I not been alert to listen. The prayer itself before the interview was a preparation to be in the listening posture, a listening from the heart. Yes, I know some say such things as this are wishful thinking, superstition, coincidence. Apparently, I am listening in a more mysterious universe than they believe they live in. I choose to listen to Life, inscrutable Life. I have encountered these inexplicable encounters too often to think of doubting the reality of them, or the need to listen and respond when this voice appears.

* * *

listening does not mean listening for a voice
the inner voice is not a voice

the voice can be
intuition, sensation, feeling, thought

yet, this voice
is arising from the voiceless Presence
in and among

listening entails
being present to everything arising
in the body

listening means
being receptive to the totality of the other ~
the other is the sacrament of presence with you

relax the search to 'hear' something
be present passively and alertly
listening happens

in this listening
the sense of a listener recedes
until only listening remains

Black Curtains from The Royal Analgesic .

Grace and Peace to All

*Move cursor over pictures for photographer and title.

*(C)Brian K. Wilcox, 2019


Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > the sacred art of Listening

©Brian Wilcox 2019