By Rev. Toni G. Boehm, Ph.D., USCR Ministry Consultant —
“Though we seem to be sleeping there is an inner wakefulness that directs the dream, and that will eventually startle us back to the truth of who we are.” —Rumi
Generous Listening: What Does That Mean?
Most interactions that we engage in, as human beings, are based upon the exchange of words – which arise from and occur in the realm of thought. These self-produced thoughts form words that are imaged and thus created through limiting and often destructive perceptions, beliefs, and concepts generated from and based on past experiences. These perceptions often create artificial barriers of separation between what we want to say and what really gets said and also in the interpretation of what was said and what we hear.
Interactions not rooted in Being or Spirit become mind-based or perception-oriented, which by their nature tend to create great misunderstandings. Can you imagine this? Without conceptual and perceptual self-created barriers, what would be present naturally, would be love in its purest form – unconditioned.
Generous listening is actually a rare skill, which most us have not mastered the art of, as of yet. Why, one might ask? Because generous listening goes beyond auditory perception. A great deal of our attention is taken up by thinking – not listening – when we are engaged in a conversation with another person. We are often evaluating what was just said, unconsciously reacting to what was just said and determining and preparing our retort or come back. Or, in many cases, we might not be listening at all, we are just lost in our own thoughts.
More important than what we are listening to, is the art and act of engaging in generous listening. Generous listening is a space of conscious presence, it is an arising of alert attention in which the words become secondary. This space of conscious presence forms a unifying field of awareness, per Echardt Tolle, and in this field we engage without barriers of separation present; those barriers created by past experience. So what does Generous Listening entail, if one wanted to begin to practically apply it as both a tool and skill?
The Art of Generous Listening
“Stop the words now. Open the window in the center of your chest, and let spirit fly in and out.” — Rumi¹
Generous Listening² is an opportunity to stop, take a deep breath, and look at what wants to energetically arise, in the moment. It is taking a moment to stop and consciously engage the energy in the space beneath the words, beneath the action and activity.
Generous and spacious listening gives us the opportunity to be present to the energy of the moment. Generous listening and the interior spaciousness it creates, invites us to be interested in shifting our awareness from the content [the stuff happening] to the greater context [the energy underneath that which happening and that desires to teach and/or be recognized]. Moving consciously into this state of energetic spaciousness, allows to be fully present to both the person and energy at hand.
The intention of generous and interior listening when used as a conscious practice opens and awakens us to new levels of awareness and understanding. We are open to the energies available in the present moment; letting them be a catalyst for possibility. Possibility which could create an extraordinary transforming experience, for all involved.
The concept of interior and generous listening is not new, it is well over 2,000 years ago, as it was practiced by those known as the ancient desert “fathers.” These desert “fathers” were aesthetics who lived in the desert, with very little in the way of comfort to surround them. Their desire was to know God and to do this consciously focused or centered their attention in the heart space and kept it there, regardless of what they were doing. This practice was anchored with a short prayer that was called “The Jesus Prayer.”
The ancient desert fathers, by keeping their attention focused in the heart; learned to pray without ceasing. Staying focused on a Higher Power and Source, their only intention was that of knowing and experiencing THAT. Through interior listening, they experienced spiritual liberation.
A “Mystery” Practice: The Interior, Generous Listening
Hold as your purpose, that you are holding you self in relationship with Source; that your desire is to experience the spaciousness of emptiness, the expansiveness of Source Energy underneath all that is being said – in words, thoughts, or deeds.
Focus your attention in the heart space and notice and be interested in the movement of the energy around you; not what you are hearing but what it is underneath that which you are hearing. This conscious attention to the energy underneath all that is being heard, will effortlessly, move you into a place of stillness.
This is akin to the difference between the ripples and waves and on the surface of a body of water and the stillness found in the depths. This focusing on the stillness underneath the surface, moves you into and through an invisible opening that is the spacious of emptiness; the place of connection to Source and Source Energy.
Hold your attention there while the energy contained within the spaciousness begins to wrap you in its mantle and bless you with its gifts. Linger here in the spaciousness, holding the attention in the heart and be present to the energy, notice the pulsing of stillness. This is the act of interior listening.
Stay intentional about where your attention is focused; intentionality holds your attention, and attention creates the direction where the mind flows. Your attention is in the spaciousness of the heart. From this space you can now listen, with a sense of generosity.
“I am now in the presence of Pure Being and immersed in the Holy Spirit of Life, Love and Wisdom. I acknowledge Thy Presence and Thy Power, Oh, blessed Spirit. In Thy Divine Wisdom now erase my mortal limitations and from Thy pure Substance of Love bring into manifestation my world according to Thy perfect Law.” — Holy Spirit Invocation, Charles Fillmore
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Toni G. Boehm, is your USCR Ministry Consultant. She can be contacted at 816-304-3044 or by email. USCR’s mission is to support your ministry and leadership education and training. All expenses, except the generous love offering for the experience, is paid by USCRegion.
1 Barks, Coleman. The Poetry of Rumi Journal. Brush Dance Publications. Sausalito, CA.
2 Boehm, Toni G. The Spiritual Intrapreneur. 1st-5th printing Dorrance Publishing. Pittsburgh, PA. 1996. Revised printing Inner Visioning Press. Greenwood, MO. 2001. pg. 9