Recently, I have been ‘reviewing’ my history regarding my experience of spirituality and the practice of spiritual disciplines as well as the evolution and transformation of it throughout the last quarter of a century. I have grown from a black and white (rigid) understanding and interpretation of what it means to be led by the Spirit towards a more tolerant, compassionate experience and view.
In short, I have become less arrogant that my way is the right way, much less even “a” single way being the ‘right’ way. I have come to know and see that the Spirit is like the Wind indeed – blowing wherever the skies and landscape take it. Who am I to judge the Spirit’s leading and intention in a persons’ life? I am learning that God can work in any way God sees fit, and can obviously do so without any input from this particular ragamuffin.
I am learning again one of the indispensable foundations of spirituality (and spiritual growth) is listening: listening to God, to our hearts, our fears, our pain, our joys, and especially to others. Spirituality (and spiritual growth) can and do occur in solitude, but for them to flourish deeply they must grow in relation to another – in community. And I am fast learning one steadfast truth: all community begins with listening. It is an initial listening to a call from the Other Who then leads us to others and in listening to them we are led to ourselves, and it is vital to listen to each one clearly because at the Center they are all saying the same thing: “we are loved and we are one.”
It is in the mutuality that grows from listening that the deepest spiritual significance occurs, namely the mutuality between listening and telling; knowing someone will listen without judgment and knowing that someone can tell their story knowing it will be heard. That is one of the greatest powers of groups like Alcoholics Anonymous – story telling, listening, a shared struggle and a shared healing experience.
Those of us who are wrestling with spiritual dilemmas and demons, creeping and crawling ever so slowly towards awakenings, do not necessarily need answers but ‘presence’ – the permission to confront the dilemma, struggle with it out loud knowing we will be heard, and finding solace in the ‘defeat’ of terminal uniqueness (the belief that we are so different that we are alone in a chaotic, random universe).
Listening begins and deepens our spiritual experiences. Listening affords us the space and silence needed to empty out our pain through storytelling and mutuality. Listening is where we find not only answers but maybe more importantly the Presence Whom is the Source of all our longings.