by Rev. Brendan Curran, Assoc. Minister         –          June 15, 2017

listenAs many of you may know I’ve been hosting community office hours at The Coffee Depot every Friday from 3 pm to 5 pm.  I got the idea of hosting community office hours from several clergy colleagues who make themselves available in a public place as a way of reaching out to the congregation and as a way of being present to the wider community.  Several people in the congregation recently approached me during coffee hour and asked me how the community office hours are going and what happens.  It’s been different every week!  Only one week I was by myself and was able to work on preparing for worship.  Every other week I have had at least one visitor.  Sometimes it’s a member of the congregation, a couple times it has been a stranger, other times there has been a group of us.  More recently, I have started bringing a scripture passage with an article or a thought for the day for study and discussion.  Most of what I get to practice doing during this special time is listening.

Gabi Sclafani, a beloved member of our congregation currently attendingBecomingWise_1 Union theological seminary, recently preached a sermon at our church in which she explained the importance of deep listening in ministry.  She quoted Krista Tippett, the host of NPR’s show, “On Being,” and the author of, “Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.” Krista Tippet claims to “listen for a living.”  We engaged the topic of, “listening as a spiritual practice” for one of our discussion topics at the coffee depot one week and we explored ways to actively cultivate deep listening.

How often do we deeply listen to ourselves, showing up for our own thoughts and feelings?  How often do we listen deeply enough to hear our own inner voice?  How actively and deeply do we listen to others?  In a world of constant facebook posts, tweets, sound-bites, and memes, I’ve heard many express Social-Media-Ahead-squarehow they feel bombarded, at all times, by News and information.  Much of the communication and information lacks depth and only creates mental clutter, or worse, misinformation and confusion.  In our Friday discussion on listening we read an excerpt from Krista Tippet’s book in which she describes her view on current communication trends.  She writes, “We reduce great questions of meaning and morality to ‘issues’ and simplify them to two sides, allowing pundits and partisans to frame them in irreconcilable extremes.” Her observation describes well how so much of our communication as well as the information we consume come from a reactive place rather than deep listening.  Practicing listening as a spiritual practice and cultivating it as an art become so important in such an environment.

During our Friday discussion we shared simple practices for cultivating deep listening.  I’m sharing a couple of the ideas that were shared here.

  • Take five minutes a day to just listen.  Actively.  Calmly.  Deeply.  Do nothing else!  Turn off the electronics, and simply listen!  (As it’s the summer now the birds are active, and I’ve been enjoying waking early and making sure I soak in the silent calm and the sounds and songs of morning.)
  • Go on a “social media fast.”  Suggesting that we go on a social media fast is not to say that we should not inform ourselves and be engaged citizens. fast A social media fast simply involves being mindful of the quality and the amount of media that we consume.  A “social media fast” might look like reducing media consumption to two hours a week!  In the effort of cultivating listening, limiting media consumption creates an opportunity to be discerning about the articles we read, the news we observe and take in, etc.  It provides room for spaciousness in our minds and hearts so we can hear our own inner voice above the racket.

When we allow ourselves room to hear ourselves more deeply, we naturally become more open to hearing others as well.  Our hearts become wider and softer, perhaps so that we can also hear God’s still small voice as well.  We become more open.

roseThe Sufi poet Rumi wrote a line that touches on this theme when he said,

“Be soft like soil to raise a lovely rose—For years you’ve been a stony-hearted man.  Try being like the soil now if you can.”

When we actively listen we “become like the soil,” and in the simple moments of listening we allow a Holy Spirit of compassion to take root in our hearts.

So come by and visit The Coffee Depot on Fridays 3-5 pm if you’re able.  It’s another opportunity to share and listen!  I will be practicing listening… to you!  God bless you!