Listen carefully, my child, to the instructions of the teacher, and incline the ear of your heart. -Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue
Yes, Listening is an art. The ability to truly listen to someone else is an art. One which each of us is called to cultivate. The carthusians tell us that the preparation for listening to God is listening to others. One carthusian shares how their rule insists on the quality of welcome they are to offer their brothers when they have an occasion to converse or relate to them: " we must know how to listen to them and understand them with both heart and mind; we are to go beyond mere appearances, and not allow ourselves to be troubled by the different ways they may have of approaching the same questions...welcoming our neighbor in this way will train our hearts to become silent, in order to be ready to receive the secret of the Other. For, in whatever circumstances, our main concern must be not just to receive some message or other, but, through the message, to discover the depths of the heart of the one who is speaking to us. If we are not able to do this with the brothers we can see, how will we be able to do it with God whom we cannot see?" A Carthuscian
Listening is relational. We form a relationship with the person we converse with. We open ourselves to someone else allowing the tone and agenda to be set by the other. Listening takes place within the silence which is what occurs if we are truly listening and not multitasking in our heads but truly hearing the one speaking. I had an opportunity to meet a professor on retreat while I was at convocation at the New Camaldoli Hermitage last month. While we we conversing she spoke of one of the reasons she came to the Hermitage for her retreat. One of the courses she would again be teaching, in a matter of a few weeks, was one of writing. One of the difficulties she was concerned with, plaguing her students, was their inability to focus. Because of their several years of multitasking it now leaves them unable to focus and settle into a singular issue. She is hoping that the practice of meditation could be of benefit for them. Do we not see this same problem in our relationship with God. If our mind is scattered on multiple things we have to do or consider how can we hear our Lords voice.
Lord, help me to put aside my own agenda when I speak with others. Help me to truly hear their concerns. Help me to open my heart to them and in so doing to open myself to you, seeking your will for me. Amen.