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Spiritual Direction: Weekly Summary

Spiritual Direction

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Week Twenty-Five Summary and Practice

Sunday, June 20—Friday, June 25, 2021

Sunday
No matter the religion or denomination in which we are raised, our spirituality still comes through the first filter of our own life experience.

Monday
As a spiritual midwife, the director’s task is to pay attention, to listen to what is not being said—or to what is being said but minimized. —Margaret Guenther

Tuesday
Jesus is the ultimate spiritual director because of his intimacy with God, his Abba. —Jeannette Bakke

Wednesday
There is an inherently cyclical interrelationship between yearning for the presence of Spirit and learning what and who we are in the presence of Spirit. —Ruth Takiko West

Thursday
Take my life into Your hands at last. Do whatever You want with it. I give myself to Your love—rejecting neither the hard things nor the pleasant things You have arranged for me. . . . Everything You have planned is good. It is all love. —Thomas Merton

Friday
The two wheels of Scripture and Tradition can be seen as sources of outer authority, while our personal experience leads to our inner authority. I am convinced we need and can have both. Only when inner and outer authority come together do we have true spiritual wisdom.

 

Reflective Listening

One of the most notable “gifts” of good spiritual directors is their ability to listen well. They aren’t afraid of silence. They listen compassionately and without judgment, and they speak from the heart (and when they are very good and disciplined, only as prompted by the Holy Spirit). While spiritual directors are trained in the act of generous and holy listening, it is a skill we can all develop. Interfaith minister and founder of The Listening Center Kay Lindahl offers these guidelines for reflective listening, which is a gift to both ourselves and those around us.

One of the goals that is emphasized in our culture is finding answers—solving problems, answering questions, removing doubt. We want to know who, what, when, where, and why—and we want to know now. When we listen, we are trained to listen for the answers. . . .

Reflective listening distinguishes a response from an answer. It is a practice to get to know your inner voice, and it takes time and patience.

First, take a few breaths before responding to a situation, question, or comment. In those few seconds, ask yourself what wants to happen next. Then wait for your inner voice to respond. Remember that you are not listening for the answer; you are listening for a response, for your true wisdom to reveal itself.

Most important, as you practice reflection, notice that what you want to say (the ego) matters less than what wants to be said (the soul). Reflective listening is a slowing down, waiting, practicing patience with yourself.

Reflective listening is also about listening for the questions. We are constantly pulled away from our innermost self and encouraged to look for answers instead of listening for the questions. Rainer Maria Rilke’s [1875–1926] advice to the young poet was “Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” [1]

The practice of listening for the questions—for what wants to be said next—deepens your relationship to your inner voice, your soul, and enhances full self-expression.

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

References:
[1] Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, trans. M. D. Herter Norton, rev. ed.
(W. W. Norton and Company: 1954), 35.

Kay Lindahl, The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2002), 110, 112.

Explore further resources and watch Father Richard Rohr explain why more people are asking for—and benefiting from—spiritual direction.

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, caught II (detail), 2020, photograph, Bellingham.
Image inspiration: This pattern of leaves exists for a brief moment in time—a calm just before wind buffets the surface and the leaves shift. Like these leaves, our many facets of human experience are in constant motion. Spiritual direction invites us to gently reveal this dance, moment by moment.
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