Compassionate Listening

Compassionate Listening

Compassionate listening was my ship’s-turned-over life boat. I stumbled head over heart, blindly and confusedly, into it just in time. My own spiritual director (compassionate listener) settled in across from me miraculously, I suppose? What would it be like for you to have a listener who gets it: you’re saying what you’re saying for reasons that are good enough for you. You are telling the truth; you are ready to explore all of what that “truth” might be about.

Compassionate listening is all about the Truest You

What if it was understood that behind every narrative (story we tell ourselves about all of The Things) there was a need. Maybe an unmet need? Possibly a need that’s been in us since forever but is now getting really noisy and disruptive? Could it be that we are not flawed-sinful-broken-shameful — just wounded?

I came into the practice of spiritual direction with all sorts of bluster and, “I’m gonna be a helper!” gusto. I wondered (out loud…to my teachers…Oh, Grooooan. That is just so embarrassing.) if my university studies in theology, etcetera, might mean that I needn’t do all of the work of the spiritual director training. You know…on account of I was all smart and stuff. Perhaps I could skip the first year of course work and just jump in on the practical stuff? Pick up the tools I needed to go with my smarty-smart-pants knowledge?

Not surprisingly, they suggested I might get curious about what that wish to skip a year was all about. Might there be some new kinds of learning for me if I just jumped in on the course as-was, signed up for my own spiritual direction care, and cooperated with the process?

The Truest You in process, of course…

That first year tipped my life right over. ‘Flipped my theology on it’s enormously sanctimonious behind. ‘Set me on a path toward a free and wonder-led exploration that I’d not fathomed possible. Like, imagine my interior life as dried up desert and thistle-bound rocks one day. It was wacky garden ‘scapes and stone sculptures and river paths and shouting into the wind and every kind of aliveness the very next.

Compassionate listening transformed me from religious, theoretical, bound-up, stuck, and sanctimonious into…Something Other. Someone curious, open. One who is beginning again. Every day. Without the need to ever have the right answer about anything. With the intention to be spaciously present to All That Is — listening for what Life might be saying right here. Right now. It rescued me from self loathing (You hear that, right? That Voice. Hateful and shaming and spewing its trauma-drunk obscenities…That voice ruled the first half of my life. Maybe you can relate?). And I am able, now, in just a starting-out way, to be curious about all of the shadow and light that this one little life contains.

What does a Still Lake listener actually do?

“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…True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, welcome, and accept.” ~ Henri Nouwen

What if you were given the invitation to settle in with a cuppa, a soft throw, and the opportunity to talk it all out? What if there was someone nearby ready to “receive, welcome, and accept” you as you are? Someone who believes that your deepest Self has wisdom and goodness to offer? A listener who trusts your Inner Teacher, your Inner Wisdom?

Nouwen has more to say. His challenge is the quiet safety at the heart of our Still Lake Listening practice. He says, “Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. Nor is it an educated intimidation with good books, good stories, and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit…

The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free….not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.”

When you’re ready, could this be the companioning you need?

Find that welcome – the safety of hospitality and compassionate listening – here. Contact us for more information on how you can connect with a listener.