Listening Is A Way of Being With God
"Praying, we learn to listen, to listen to Him whom our heart loves. Yet listening is not an effort, not a technique; it is not work to be done. Listening springs from the desires to be with the one whom you wait to hear. Listening is a coming close, waiting for a presence to materialize into words, to form itself out of silence. Listening is a relationship, even in the silence when nothing is heard. Learning to listen is to allow ourself to be present without imposing or demanding, to hold a space where something can be told, where a meeting can unfold, where openness is answered.
"There is a Chinese story of two friends, one who played the lute and the other who listened. The lute player was a wondrously skilled musician whose playing entranced all those who heard, and wherever he played, his friend sat and listened to his music. These friends were the closest companions, but one day the friend who listened died, whereupon the friend who played the lute so beautifully cut the strings of his lute and never played again. A lute with a cut string remains as a symbol of deep friendship. The lover and Beloved are friends, and the lover is the one who listens, whose being is born to listen to his Beloved. Without the lover, how could the song of the Beloved be heard?
"At the beginning we have to learn the art of listening, the art of being present, attentive, and empty. We have to learn to catch the still, small voice of our Beloved, and not interrupt, not ask too many questions. We have to learn to be silent, because listening is born from silence. But the listening of the heart is always an act of love, a coming together, even when nothing is heard. Listening is a wisdom so easily overlooked, because it is feminine, receptive, hidden, and our culture values only what is visible. But Rumi knew how central a part it plays in our loving, in our wordless relationship with our Beloved:
" 'Make everything in you an ear, each atom of your being, and you will hear at every moment what the Source is whispering to you, just to you and for you, without any need for my words or anyone else's. You are we all are the beloved of the Beloved, and in every moment, in every event of you life, the Beloved is whispering to you exactly what you need to hear and know. Who can ever explain this miracle? It simply is. Listen and you will discover it every passing moment. Listen, and your whole life will become a conversation in thought and act between you and Him, directly, wordlessly, now and always.'
"How can we learn this art of listening? How can we learn to hear what He says? How can we learn to be a part of His silence when nothing is said? How does the heart listen? What is listening within us? Is it always listening, but overlooked, obscured by all of our other activities? Or do we have to awaken this listening? Do we have to awaken each atom of our being to hear what the Source is whispering, or do we just have to attune ourself to this secret relationship?
"Any real relationship is born out of similarity, affinity. Even if we appear to be opposite in many ways to our friend or partner, we are attracted by a similarity: this is our point of meeting. We share something, and the deeper the nature of what we share, the deeper and possibly more lasting the relationship. If we share just a passing interest, then probably the relationship will be passing. If we share an affinity of the soul, then the link is stronger, deeper, more enduring. With the Beloved we have the deepest similarity: we are made in His image. We are created out of His substance. In the depths of our heart we know that we belong to Him and have pledged to witness Him. This means that we have the deepest degree of communion with our Beloved, the deepest quality of listening. But like so much of our relationship with Him, our ability to listen to Him is covered up. Just as we have forgotten to remember Him, so have we forgotten how to listen, how to allow ourselves to listen. We need to rediscover how the heart listens to its Beloved."