Many Christians are at a loss when it comes to the development of a discerning heart. They are willing and able to see the activity of the Divine in the lives of prophets, disciples, and saints. But discerning the counsel and guidance of the Spirit in their own lives? That's another story.
Wilkie Au is a professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University where he teaches in the area of spirituality and pastoral ministry. Noreen Cannon Au is a graduate of the University of Southern California and the C. G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles. She is a practicing Jungian analyst and a faculty member of the C. G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles. Together they present a rounded overview of holistic discernment as both an art and a gift.
We can consciously practice and come up with different ways to listen for the Spirit of God; but, at the same time, we have to acknowledge that human effort alone cannot make it happen. Grace is the mover and the shaper of our lives. The authors give the following illustration: "Regular practice of discernment sharpens sensitivity to the creative Spirit hovering over our world. Living with a discerning heart requires ongoing practice, much like maintaining the proficiency of a concert pianist. At the height of his career Arthur Rubenstein, one of the world's most renowned concert pianists, said: 'If I don't practice for one day, I know it. If I don't practice for two days, the orchestra knows it. If I don't practice for three days, the whole world knows it!' The same can be said for living spiritually attuned lives based on discernment. Like any other complex art, discernment cannot be learned offhand. To grasp the theme of God's presence and action amid the discordant notes of our lives requires a proficiency acquired through ongoing practice."
The Aus discuss being led by the Spirit, desires, dreams, embracing a personal path and searching and finding. They also relate wu-wei, imagination, patience and the spiritual practice of love to the art of discernment.