Much of my time working in Information Technology is listening to folks describe “what it’s supposed to do” but doesn’t. Sometimes, I have to translate what people are telling me with what I know about how a computer or another technical device works. Sometimes, I have to talk them off the ledge of throwing their computer out a window – literally.
As I began writing this article, the Help Desk phone rang from an individual trying to download a file from the intranet, only to watch it disappear into cyber oblivion. He started our conversation frustrated: “I am going to quit using anything electronic that comes from the Diocese. I hate computers! You folks in IT speak a different language than most people.” I asked him to take a breath and then worked my magic. I connected with his computer and saw that he was saving the document, not just opening it. The fuming gentleman on the phone turned calm and appreciative, very thankful for the bone I threw him!
I tell you this story not because I want to sing the praises of the eight guys and one gal with whom I work in the IT department (well, I really do!), but rather to begin a reflection on listening from the heart. Kay Lindahl, author of The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice, states: “‘Heart listening’ is the spiritual practice of listening from the heart and listening to the heart. Being truly listened to, is one of the greatest gifts we can give each other. Heart listening is more than simply not interrupting others when they are speaking or not finishing their sentences for them. … Listening from the heart is being open and wanting for the other to speak what is really in their heart. 1
Heart listening involves three different steps: 1) Paying attention to what is actually said – the words. 2) Listening to the emotions that the words evoke. 3) Slowing down enough to discover the real meaning of what someone is trying to say. This is the essence of what true listening is all about; opening ourselves to the other, opening our being to another.
When this process is undertaken, conversation slows down and there is a chance to relax and experience peace. The slowing down allows us to create a sacred space, a place in which we can actually speak what’s in our heart. This creates wonder and a place for God.
The rapidity of our life limits, I believe, our ability to slow down, to listen to the heart of another and to open our own heart. If we are ever going to truly listen to the voice of God, we must STOP, breathe, and allow the Holy Spirit to do his magic! How about trying it?
1Lindahl, Kay. The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice. SkyLight Paths Pub., 2002. Pg. 41.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness