Have you ever noticed that when you are thinking about a certain thing, those same ideas pop out of nowhere in many places? I recently I began teaching a class on The Power of Your Word . The class is organized by introducing a new spiritual practice each week. The first week practice was Keeping a Journal, the second week was Meditation and this week the practice was Listening. I had just finished reading Chapter 9 in Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, and Antidote to Chaos.
Rule #9 is: Assume that the Person You are Listening to Might Know Something You Don’t.
Peterson, a clinical psychologist, used an example to show how listening, without giving advice or explanation, led his clients to know themselves in a healthier way. I was deeply moved by the example because he points out that he could have taken the facts and depending on his moral compass, the advice he would have given his client would have effected her view of herself perhaps for good and perhaps for ill, but either way, the client would start seeing herself through that description. By being willing to just listen, he gave her the gift of making her own decisions about what her actions meant. Deep listening is a gift we give others.
Deep listening is a gift we give ourselves.
When I list my favorite spiritual practices, up-until-now I have not included listening in the list. But when I think more deeply about it, listening is a very important spiritual way. Rev. Pat Hightower, the principal writer of the curriculum, writes:
“Listening is a spiritual practice that is sometimes overlooked in all our days of doing and creating and conversing with each other. The spiritual practice is critical, however, in order to deepen the inner life and grow in conscious awareness of truth.”
To grow in conscious awareness
She says that it means to listen with the heart, not to simply listen to what sounds you hear. When we listen with the heart we listen with our whole being in order to be completely present to what is occurring now. We are listening to the “still small voice” which guides and instructs us.
When I am going through something and need clarity about it, one of the techniques I have used for years is simply to get still and ask myself, “What do I need to know about this situation?” Then I sit and listen. It is a similar experience to writing morning pages, in that the first ideas that come up, are things that I have already thought about. But, when I sit patiently and continue to ask the question, Spirit provides answers, insights and direction.
So we can use listening as a spiritual practice both when we are listening to others and when we are having a conversation with ourselves. Peterson describes this as thinking. He goes on to say that often when we are having conversations with ourselves, it is just self-criticism, a form of abuse. But the glory of asking the deep questions and waiting for answers, we can go deeper that we have ever gone before. We are opening to greater self-awareness. Greater clarity blesses all those around us.