Monday, September 10, 2007

Learning to Listen

This is Monday. I got back from the retreat last night. When I awoke this morning, my calves screamed as I got out of bed because of the walk up the "mountain" at the retreat center I took first thing yesterday morning.

I don't think I'm going to go into too much detail about the retreat other than to say that some of the planned activities went really well and others not so well but I learned something from each one. We did a lot of talking, both in dialog and taking turns telling our stories. We worshipped in silence often and sang some. We cooked and ate and cleaned a laughed a lot. One of the members of our party began feeling very poorly due to a stomach virus and had to leave on Saturday. We missed her but reached out to her in spirit frequently through the remainder of our time together.

I think the thing that made this retreat different and special to me was that each of us was willing to begin opening ourselves to each other and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. And we have committed to doing and being very definite and specific things for ourselves and one another. We have each committed to actively engage in a daily practice which was chosen for it's ability to bring us closer to Spirit. We spoke aloud our commitments to ourselves and one another. We also agreed to hold one another accountable. Each month we will check in with one another.

Oddly, I don't feel "filled with the Spirit". I feel hopeful but also somewhat detached. I think perhaps I'm feeling some amount of trepidation and fear of the changes I'm opening myself to. This is just what I asked for and now that I've committed to it I'm not sure I'm up to it. If I believed in Satan, I'd say he was "talking to me" but I know this comes from me. I know that what's familiar and comfortable in my ego is saying that change is not all it's cracked up to be. All I can do is to ask God to help me find my way.

The practices I have committed to are to read or write every day, to be mindful in my interactions with my children and, although I forgot to say this outloud, to pray every day.

I'm having a hard time with prayer. I've been praying every day for a while. I can "talk" to God but I'm not so good at listening. One of the people in our group referred to the "noise in his head" once or twice. I think it's the same as my "chihuahua brain" and what Buddhists refer to as "monkey mind". I'm good at thinking. I'm completely out of touch with listening. I don't know how to slow my brain down enough to listen to God. I used to "feel" God as a physical sensation in my solar plexus. This was before I "found" God; back when I was an agnostic seeker. The second time I sat in Meeting for Worship, I had the epiphany that my "gut feeling" was God speaking to me through my intuition. Almost as soon as I understood that, the sensation no longer happened. I have experienced God in other ways since then, including hearing a voice in my ear. Now, God is silent but I know it's because I'm supposed to learn a new way to listen. But learning to quiet and still my mind is something I've been struggling with since the first time I sat in Friends meeting.

"Teach me to stop and listen,
Teach me to center down.
Teach me to hear in silence,
Things that are never found.

Teach me to be collected,
Teach me to be in tune.
Teach me to be directed,
Silence will end so soon.

Then when it's time for moving,
Grant it that I may bring,
To every day and moment,
Peace from a silent spring."


grey said...

I enjoyed reading your post. Your remark about the "gut feeling" rang a distinct bell for me (mine in my chest, instead, but the same concept, I think). Sometimes it seems easier to hear. The fist view times I went to meeting, it was so overwhelming (plus everything else that) that I felt wide open and cried a lot. More recently, I'm calmer in meeting, with less tears and pain. I wonder if the other was God shouting to get my attention and trying to make sure I listened to the voice saying - here, now, it's time, and this is right! Now, as I have been listening more, God doesn't have to shout as loud? Maybe? I can still get that feeling and sense, but it is less intense, most of the time.

Learning a new way to listen is a beautiful thought. I find the quaker "leading" a wonderful phrase - the image that we are being led, gently, to what we need, what will challenge and testing us, but what we *are* capable of doing/handling. I will be thinking of learning a new way to listen this week.

The poem/song is lovely. Where does it come from?

I'm glad I found your blog - thanks!

Friendly Mama said...

I completely forgot to credit the song "Teach Me to Stop and Listen"! The writer is Ken Medema ( It's a song we sing in NFM frequently, lovely and centering. Thanks for asking so I could give credit where credit is due!

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I am looking for the song "Teach Me" that you reference in your post. Do you know which album it is from or how I might locate it? Thank you so much for your time.

Rob Spaulding

Friendly Mama said...

I don't think I've ever listened to a recording of it. We sing it out of our Friends hymnal. You may just do a google search to see what you come up with.
Happy hunting!
Mary Linda