Listening 101

Many decades ago ago I provided publicity services to several Minnesota authors. One of the writers sometimes called me first thing in the morning and after only a brief greeting, he read a few lines or paragraphs from a current work in progress. When he finished and before I could respond, he said, “Have a nice day, Nancy,” and then he hung up.

After only a couple of those early morning phone calls, I realized he did not call to get my response to his writing. Instead, he simply wanted to know someone was listening. He needed to hear himself reading his own words and know they were landing in someone’s ears. We never talked about those calls, and now I wish I had asked him why he called and what he learned or thought because of that brief and silent, on my end, interaction.

Not only did I feel privileged to hear him reading bits and pieces of work in its early stages, but over the years I recognized those phone calls were a kind of class, Listening 101.

Remember when we read books to our children or grandchildren and how they gave their total attention to what you read? They snuggled next to you, silent, almost holding their breath as you read about the adventures of a favorite character. They received every word. They absorbed the tone of your voice, as much as the words. Yes, sometimes they asked a question, a clarifying question, (“Why is he running away, GrandNan?” “I don’t know, Peter, but I bet we will find out on the next page.” ) but they seemed to know that the story would unfold, if they just listened.

You may think this post is about listening to other people, and in a way, it is, for I suspect each of us could polish our contemplative listening skills. We could each learn to open our hearts to what someone is telling us. We could each silence our own responses, often formed before the other person has come to the end of a sentence. We could each set aside our own brilliance for at least a moment.

As important as it is to listen, really listen, to others, what I am thinking about right now is the importance of listening to ourselves.

How often do you dismiss a recurring thought as not important or accurate? Do you even recognize the sound of your inner voice? How good are you at receiving your own thoughts?

Our inner voice speaking directly to us, asking us to listen, can be a wise and loving companion, a witness to what is coming alive in us or needs to be recognized.

So how do we develop a relationship with our inner voice?

Well, let’s go back to a guideline from Listening 101.

When we truly listen to another, we offer a kind of spaciousness–room for receiving, room for acceptance, room for reflection–and that is true for ourselves, as well. When we are intentional about listening to ourselves, there is room for that inner voice to speak. That may happen as you take a solitary morning walk (Leave your ear buds at home!) or when you sit in the quiet darkness at the end of the day and think about the day’s unfolding. That may happen as you breathe gently in and out, finding your own rhythm before you lift the name of loved ones in prayer.

What I am beginning to learn–and it is taking lots of practice–is that the more I learn to listen to myself, the more able I am to lean listening ears to another. And the more I open to my inner voice, the more aware I am of the presence of God listening to me.

October 1

Your ear, beloved Listener, opened wide,

Pressed to each portion of my heart, my life.

Attuned to the slightest vibration of my being,

Attentive to the constant rhythms of my soul.

You hear the cry in the throat of my heart.

My troubles do not cease with your awareness.

But they soften, loosen some of their grip,

Become bearable, touchable, endurable.

If your attentive solicitude blesses so fully,

Surely I, too, can listen that closely to others.

Fragments of Your Ancient Name

Joyce Rupp

An Invitation: What has your inner voice whispered to you today? I would love to know.

2 thoughts on “Listening 101

  1. Your post resonates with me. There were two memorable times when a voice inside (mine!) said something and I ignored it, only to realize much later and, as you say, after much practice, that what the voice said was important. Thanks for the reinforcement of our need to listen to ourselves. All we ever need we already have.


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