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? This is the spacious non-judgment of compassionate listening.
We come into the practice of spiritual direction for reasons that are good enough. Each participant is caught up in their own exploration of Something. Most often, that Something is a tangle of identity and spirituality. Life has been talking to them in one way or another. Through painful circumstance, maybe. Or through cross-roads decision making. It could be that there has been a death, or a difficult diagnosis.
When life shifts, it is a good time to wonder about some of the beliefs and stuck places that may have had us gripped for a lifetime. ‘A time to wonder about what has served in the past, but may need to be laid down for now.
The Truest You in process, of course…
Compassionate listening (spiritual direction) 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.
This kind of listening care 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…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? Compassionate listening 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.”
Some thoughtful reviews from participants
Both Michelle and Sandra experience the vulnerability of spiritual direction ongoing. We engage in this kind of spiritual practice for ourselves at least once each month with our own spiritual directors and supervisors. Our own experiences of spirituality and identity have deepened, altered, and wobbled through the process of experiencing compassionate listening! We could echo each of these when speaking of our own spiritual directors, when our own participants say,
There were times that I felt uncomfortable being challenged to go deeper. Ultimately it was those moments of discomfort that pealed a thin layer back and provided food for thought all week.~C.R. – Big Emotions
"You offer us opportunity to explore the richness of a deep, fulfilled life." ~ MGK, one-on-one & Wintering Women
I felt compassion from everyone which has had a healing effect on me.~ I.M. – Big Emotions
When you’re ready, could this be the companioning you need?
Find welcome – the safety of hospitality and compassionate listening – here. This is an affirming and inclusive space. We are humble learners as we are ever-growing in what that means. You are welcome as you are and can be met one-on-one, or in a small group. Contact us for more information on how you can connect with a listener.
If your small group would benefit from a facilitated experience of spiritual direction, reach out. Michelle and Sandra facilitate compassionate listening group care ongoing and can work with you to create an experience that is uniquely your own.