Friday, 2 January 2015

A year of prayer: Reflections on Contemplative Listening

I have never been fond of noise. As a child I tended to have heightened senses -- all of them. I saw and heard and felt and smelled things intensely. Consequently, I learned to block a lot of stuff out. I made the intention of not paying attention in order to handle all the possible input. While I still have heightened senses, I've learned to cope by limiting the input. Adults have far more control over their environments than children and so my senses are much more manageable now than when I was young.
I like manageability and control. :)

And then I go and do things like exploring spiritual practices that require me to attend, to listen deeply and with intention. I must be crazy! 

Well, maybe not entirely. I began my month of contemplative listening by choosing particular pieces of music that I know well, and that I suspected would place me in a particular space of listening. These were pieces that I already knew would draw me into the presence of God. And it was lovely and relaxing and not remotely challenging, aside from setting aside the time anyway. 

Listening to lovely music, relaxing, and being in God's presence is beautiful and not inherently problematic, but I sensed that I was being called to other forms of listening as well. And so I made the intention to listen to the chaos that I normally tune out. The traffic, the voices on the bus, the screams and yells of children and adults playing and fighting, the songs and sounds of Christmas, the news reports. I wanted to hear the voice of God in those sounds. I wanted to experience beauty in chaos. But I did not. 


What I experienced was deep sadness, frustration, grief, and hopelessness. What I experienced was a longing for peace, for reconciliation within and without. What I experienced was Advent. 

The gift of this month has been the recognition that when I avoid all of the chaotic noise around me, I don't fully allow myself to yearn for God's peace, to express my deepest longings for the transformation that comes through the in-breaking of the Divine. I suspect as well that I have been avoiding all that chaotic noise in order to reduce my emotional responses, to remain in control, to hold back my tears of grief and longing. Tears often seem inconvenient or uncomfortable and I sense that I have not been allowing space in my life for weeping.

And yet, that is the song of Advent.The song that was supposed to change to awe, wonder, and joy last week. How annoying when one's own spiritual journey fails to match the liturgical calendar. Maybe I'll just stick with Advent for awhile longer, since I'm pretty sure Jesus didn't put that calendar together anyway!

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