By Julie Elliot –
My tears taught me that I had yearned for this kind of listening. Held in spacious silence, I felt loved and accepted completely.
Crying can be a teacher. When I first began my training with the Pacific Jubilee Program, I was deeply embarrassed to find that whenever I spoke in the large circle, I would cry. I’d start out clear and confident but soon my throat would close up and I would feel the tears gathering. I’d hear myself apologizing, “I don’t know why I’m crying. Everything is fine. Really!”
Now I understand that my tears came from the new experience of having others listen to me without interruption. Growing up as the second of nine children, our home was busy, noisy, and chaotic. There was a lot going on and it was noisy – all the time. We weren’t taught how to listen. We didn’t know how to hold a space for each other; indeed, it was a challenge to finish a sentence without being interrupted. So, it was deeply moving for me to look around the Jubilee circle and see compassionate friends who were listening with their full attention – without saying a word. My tears taught me that I had yearned for this kind of listening. Held in spacious silence, I felt loved and accepted completely.
Now, several years later, I’m privileged to offer this kind of compassionate listening as a spiritual director. In a spiritual direction session, there is an open space and we’re held by the Divine (however you name this Mystery) where deep listening can be transformative. This quote, from Douglas Steere, expresses what I know to be true:
To “listen” another’s soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.
– Douglas Steere (1901–1995) American Quaker Ecumenist
I can speak in the circle without crying now (and I’m no longer embarrassed by my tears) but that doesn’t mean I take deep listening for granted. It’s still moving for me to experience and offer this kind of loving presence. I know the more we can listen without judgement, advice, interpretation or interruption, the more space we allow for the other to find their own deep truth. It’s a profound gift we can give one another, and it’s available for each one of us.
Julie Elliot is a spiritual director, trained in the Pacific Jubilee SoulGuiding program ~ a two year practical learning program in spiritual growth, soul development and the art of spiritual direction. Julie’s also responsible for communications for Pacific Jubilee. If you have questions or comments about this blog, please be in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Jubilee Programs offer training in spiritual direction, spiritual growth and soul development. We explore the contemplative life through spiritual practices including the enneagram, integration of head/heart/body, silent retreats, “holy listening” in journey groups and contemplative prayer and meditation. Read more about spiritual direction by clicking on our 3 national programs: Ontario Jubilee, Pacific Jubilee, Prairie Jubilee