Friends Who Flunk: Listening (January)

About a year ago, I read Jana Riess’s delightful book, Flunking Sainthood, and loved it.  Then just a couple of months ago, a good friend read it and loved it, too.

Afterward, she came up with a brilliant idea: let’s do our own year of spiritual practices!

We enlisted the help of another of our close friends, and decided to make 2013 our own year of spiritual failure.  :) And we’d like to invite you to join us!

Each month, we’ll choose a practice — sometimes inspired by Riess’s book, sometimes based on our own needs and interests.  We’ll put it into practice all month long (well, okay, we’ll try to).  At the end of the month, we’ll blog about how we did and how it impacted our lives. If you’d like to play along, you can attempt the practice for the month with us, then share your experiences with us in the comments section of our posts.

For January, the spiritual practice we’ve chosen is listening.

(And yes, okay, I get that we’ve just barely started even though it’s January 12 and we’re basically halfway through the month.  Failure #1?)

We chose listening because each of us recognized that we have a horrible habit of only half-listening: to God, to our loved ones, to our bodies, and so on.  According to this wonderful site, which has lots of resources on listening (check it out!),

Listening involves attention, being present, and hospitality, and it is a component of devotion, nurturing, and wonder.

Listening is our bridge to the wisdom of sacred texts and spiritual teachers. It is an essential part of the discernment process whereby we identify God’s messages for us. Listening enables us to tune in to others and our inner voices of intuition and conscience. It is how we know we are part of the natural, technological, and media worlds all around us.

We came up with a few guidelines to help us with the practice…

  1. Pay attention to others when they speak.  We’re exploring active listening and trying to put it into practice with the people with whom we interact on a daily basis.
  2. STOP multi-tasking!  All three of us have jobs or educational opportunities that require us to telecommute or be on the phone with coworkers, classmates, and customers on a very regular basis.  We have made multi-tasking during meetings and phone conversations verboten for the month, which means putting away cell phones, turning off Facebook, shutting down email, and leaving the news unread.  This way, we can focus our attention on what’s happening now.
  3. Leave the cell phone home at church.  Sometimes church is…well…kinda boring.  And we find ourselves pulling out our cell phones to surf the web, check email, or play games to pass the time (all while pretending to be deeply interested in our scripture apps).  But maybe church wouldn’t be so boring if we were actually engaged.  So we’re leaving the cell phones at home this month, opting instead for our heavy, “old skool” sets of scriptures, and doing our darnedest to engage thoughtfully and meaningfully during church.  Emphasis on the FULLY.

Those are the three specific areas we chose.  You may want to pick something else.  Other ideas might be…

  • Taking time out each day so sit in silence and hear what is going on around us.
  • Turning on a piece of music and paying attention only to it.
  • Saving time at the end of prayers to hear God’s response.
  • Paying special attention to the scriptures, by focusing on the words of the text, insights we gain, and/or context of the passages.
  • Checking in with our bodies on a regular basis to understand how we’re feeling, what we’re thinking, what we need, etc.
  • What others can you think of?

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8 Responses to “Friends Who Flunk: Listening (January)”

  1. Katie R
    January 12, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    Mmm … I like this. I’m in.

  2. Katie L
    January 12, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    Woo hoo!

  3. Laurac
    January 13, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    I like working on listening. I’m going to try this. I already avoid multitasking as much as possible (it makes my head hurt) and I don’t have a fancy cell phone to bring to Church. But I could work on listening to God more. And my body. Thanks for posting this :)

  4. Rosebriars
    January 14, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    I’m in too. This dovetails perfectly into my general attempt to reduce my technology interface time. I’ll have to consider whether I choose to bring the ipod touch or the paper scriptures to church since I’ve never had a problem with using them for anything but the gospel library during church, but it’s another way to reduce my tech face time…hmm.

  5. Katie L
    January 14, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    Yay! Exciting!!!!

  6. Kim
    January 23, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    I’d like to try this. I know I have the terrible habit of half-way listening to someone speak, while devoting most of my thoughts to what I’ll say next. I’m going to join you (for the last few days of the month?) in trying to actually focus on listening, and not worrying so much about being heard. Very good resolution.

  7. Jared C
    January 31, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    Very timely insight for me. Listening is the only way I stay sane sometimes. ;-)

  8. RH
    March 5, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    Excellent. I decided to do this last year. I blamed everyone but me for being bored. When I am engaged, the boredom is gone. It was me, NOT them.
    I’m all in.

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