It seems as though there is an endless supply of words in this world, and so many people can use them creatively. They capture my attention and my heart. Sometimes I feel a little envious when I experience the way some writers put their words together. At times they seem to roll around in my mouth, at others they slip or trip off the tongue. Sometimes they are clear and sharp, and at other times they are sweet and soft. And then there are times when they seem to bounce off the page, dance in front of my eyes, shout to the skies, or create a quiet place like a chapel hush. I just like words and what can be done with them. Here are a few such groupings of words.
“Remember, you can’t reach for what’s in front of you until you let go of what’s behind you.” Author unknown
“I always begin my prayer in silence, for it is in the silence of the heart that God speaks. God is the friend of silence – we need to listen to God
because it’s not what we say, but what God says to us and through us that matters.” Mother Teresa
“It is when God appears to have abandoned us that we must abandon ourselves most wholly to God.” Francois Fenelon
“Rhythm is our universal mother tongue. It’s the language of the soul.” Gabrielle Roth
“There is no love without hope, no hope without love, and neither hope nor love without faith.” St. Augustine
“God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with.” Billy Graham
“Be patient enough to live one day at a time as Jesus taught us, letting yesterday go and leaving tomorrow till it arrives.” John Newton
“Faith is like radar that sees through fog.” Corrie ten Boom
“We can make art, letting the voice of the goddess – the oracle – speak through us in words and images.” Dorothy Maclean
“The drum is sacred. Its round form represents the whole universe, and its steady beat is the pulse,
the heart, throbbing at the center of the universe.” Nick Black Elk
“Life is sacred. Life is art. Life is sacred art.” Gabrielle Roth
“Learning is movement from moment to moment.” Krishnamurti
“It doesn’t have to be a big fire, a small blaze, candlelight perhaps ……….” Ray Bradbury
“Since it is very rare in our society to be personally sung to, this experience usually awakens
the soul and speaks to the heart, helping that person to hear and sing their own song.” Caitlin Matthews
Perhaps you would like to go back to the beginning and allow these words to slip and trip and roll around in your mouth. Perhaps you can try reading them out loud, and as you do so, listen for the loud and the soft, the sharp and the sweet, and the possible chapel hush. Enjoy and receive blessings.
A few weeks ago Richard and I celebrated twenty eight years of marriage. I began the day in my usual fashion, out on the lanai having my quiet time with God. My husband was inside having his quiet time too, and through the open door I could feel the connection as we each experienced our own unique relationship with God. As I read my various daily reflections, the meaning of that day slowly sank in.
We had known each other for almost twenty nine years. I met Richard towards the end of July 1983, and we married on 24 March 1984. It was a bit of a scary time for me. I had been married once before for almost ten very unhappy years and it had been ten years since I had separated and consequently divorced that man. I had lived much of that previous marriage emotionally alone, and had become very independent and self-sufficient in the ensuing ten years. Oh, and did I mention that Richard is almost twenty years my junior??
I thought back to that time after Richard asked me to marry him and remembered how much praying and self-questioning I went through. I had also insisted that we speak with the priest and go through counseling, and then I went on a retreat to distance myself from the relationship for forty eight hours, just to have some clarity and see if I had any different thoughts and feelings about the situation. After doing everything I thought I should do to be sure of how I felt, we went ahead and married.
I sat there on the twenty fourth of March this year with a very full heart as I traveled back in time, and the prevailing thought was “where had all those twenty eight years gone?”. The words from a well-known Christian song came to mind: “in the blink of an eye”. As I said goodbye to Richard that morning (he had a day-long class he had to attend), I remembered our first real kiss. It had me blushing for a moment because it was a very incredible and passionate kiss and I remember thinking that I could just have floated off in that kiss all those years ago. But it was also a very tender kiss, and I think that’s what sold me on Richard from the very first – he was such a tender person. Tender-hearted as a person as well as tender towards me, and others.
If I needed any other evidence of the years we have been together, we have a twenty seven-year old daughter, Melissa, who is proof-positive that all those “blink-of-an-eye” years really existed. I remember very well appearing in a play, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, when I was about six months pregnant with her, and my eldest son, Marco, from my first marriage, break dancing day in and day out during the pregnancy. Melissa was born to the rhythm of break dance.
While Richard was in class, I got on with my day and couldn’t help but notice in great detail the contents of our home, which is something between an art gallery and a curio shop. There are paintings and photos all over the walls. The paintings come from many different places that either Richard has travelled to during his years in the Navy or that we both have travelled to together. Then there are the statues and figurines that cover every shelf and available surface throughout the house. Many people are quite taken aback when they visit our home for the first time because of all “the stuff”. But everything is a joyful representation of the years that we have been together and the memories that we have created.
When Rich came home from class, we got ready to go out and celebrate our anniversary. First we went to the El Apache restaurant to enjoy a delicious Mexican meal. With tummies pleasantly full we then headed over to the Thrasher-Horne Center for Arts to see a show. A few weeks earlier, at a silent auction fund-raiser at our church, we had won the bid on two tickets for The Peking Acrobats which were dated twenty four March. I think the only reason we bid on them was because the date was the same as our anniversary. The show was quite breathtaking and very exciting and it was a great way to celebrate the day.
However, we didn’t quite finish the celebrations at that point. Instead of heading home, Richard pointed the car in the other direction. You see, he has an absolute weakness for Shakes, a small drive up cubicle that sells shakes and sundaes made with frozen custard. And so we completed our evening enjoying our favorites: for Rich this was a strawberry milkshake, extra thick; for me it was a kiddy-cup with one small scoop of vanilla frozen custard topped with a healthy drizzle of caramel – yum. A perfect finish to a perfect evening, and here’s to number twenty nine!!
I have mentioned in several posts recently that I am enrolled into a program called Audire. This is a three year program which will give me certification as a spiritual director. In the context of the Audire program, spiritual direction is intended as a “being a companion” to someone as they explore where they are at in their relationship to whatever God they believe in. Or, if the person does not yet believe in God, walking with them as they explore what this may mean for them and allow them a safe place to explore the possibility of a spiritual life.
One of the skills that is considered to be of prime importance in this training is the art of listening. As I worked and trained with the CREDO retreat process in the US Navy between the years of 1984 to 2003, the skill of listening was also considered to be the most important skill that we needed to cultivate. Most of the yearly training weekends that I spent with CREDO were focused on activities that helped us to hone this particular skill.
On my refrigerator door at home I have a quotation held in place with a magnet that says something like: “The greatest gift we can offer another is the gift of rapt attention.” I’m away from home right now so cannot verify the exact wording nor do I remember the author of the quotation. Just a few days ago, in one of my morning reflections, I read the following quotation by Dr. Joyce Brothers: “Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.”
Going back to the first quotation, I checked out the dictionary meaning of the word “rapt”. This is what I found:
– completely engrossed: involved in, fascinated by, or concentrating on something to the exclusion of everything else.
– deeply engrossed or absorbed
– blissfully happy: showing or suggesting deep emotions
– transported with emotion
I think the first two definitions are probably the most significant with regards the skill of listening to another, although showing that I am “blissfully happy” or “transported with emotion” as I listen to another in a totally focused way is not so bad either! It would certainly get across the message to them that I am paying complete attention to them and what they are saying.
Listening is just one component of the whole skill of good communication. It is said that when we are communicating with another person several messages are being given and received:
– the message of the words that we are actually saying
– the message that we think we are conveying with the words that we are saying
– the message that the other person hears from the words that we are saying
– the message that the other person then “decodes” from the words that we are saying
– the message that the other person sends back to us in response to the words we are saying
– the message that the other person thinks he has conveyed with the words he has said
– the message that we hear in the words from the other person
– the message that we think we understood (decoded) from the words the other person said.
There may be a few more variables going on at the time which could depend on the parties’ humor, body language, level of distraction, and others!! Is it any wonder that “bad communication” is probably the single most contributing factor to broken relations on the intimate level and wars on the international level?
So, in order to be a “good” listener I need to come to the table in a very specific way in order to offer that “rapt attention” to the other person. Here are some of the tools that I have learned, and continue to hear impressed, in order to be a good listener.
– Look directly at the speaker
– make sure body posture is open and inviting
– clear the mind of other thoughts
– avoid external distractions
– suspend internal judgment
– don’t be mentally preparing a response
– acknowledge that you are hearing by nodding the head or saying “uh huh” from time to time
When the other person stops speaking:
– wait for a few moments and then check with them that they have said all they wanted/needed to say for the moment
– if you are confused about something they said, ask for clarification
– reflect back, summarize what they have said to show them that you have truly been listening
– only then offer honest feedback, being respectful of the other and stating clearly that these are your thoughts and/or feelings in response to what you have
As can be seen, it is not easy to be a “rapt listener” but with a little thought and some willingness to get out of self, we can become the skillful listener that is needed in true communication with another.