How to be with a family when a loved one dies

Many people may be uncertain as to how to be with family members who are experiencing the death of someone they love.  Questions arise for those who want to reach out:  How can I be available?  How can I be of help?  How do I express my condolences? How can I be a loving, caring presence at such a time?  

Listening Hearts offers guidelines that may help you discern ways to be present at such times. As you consider these guidelines, be aware that “family” may include treasured friends, caregivers and others close to the person who died.

  1. Be aware of your own feelings and reactions to the death. Consider how they may impact your interaction with the family. Self-awareness is important when discerning how and when to reach out to others close to one who has died.
  2. Hold the one who has died in your heart, praying for peace, release and wholeness. Hold in your heart those closest to the person. Try to develop an understanding of where they are in relation to the situation. Look for indications of the presence and movement of the Spirit, such as compassion, calmness, insight, clarity and peace as to how to be with family members.
  3. Consider the variety of ways you may reach out, given your sense of the person and your discernment. Letters and notes can be sustaining, offering words of compassion and love, perhaps some personal memories/recollections of the one who has died, a special poem or prayer, or a picture you may have of the person. These tangible offerings are often kept by the recipient and re-visited, offering ongoing and sustaining moments as the person transitions into the future. Some families provide for online opportunities to share, such as a “Book of Memories,” or protected website/blogs for sharing memorial tributes and reflections. Offer only that which has evolved out of your careful and loving discernment and reflection.
  4. With visits, food offerings, flowers, donations and the like, defer to the wishes of the recipients and their desires for people reaching out to them. Respect their decisions as to what they perceive they need at this time. Find out if there are persons designated by the family to help coordinate such activities. Work through them. A family may have delegated oversight to trusted individuals as members face many immediate decisions and activities, yet have need for rest and quiet.
  5. Listening is often the most important gift you can give. People who have lost a family member or a treasured friend may want to share “what happened.” “Telling the story,” even repetitively, may be part of their healing process as they try to make some meaning out of what has happened. Sharing memories and even laughing at funny stories may also be healing and restorative for families. Be aware that individuals may not yet be ready to talk about what has happened, and that sometimes the best gift you can give is simply to be present with them in their grief. Listening is a task of the whole heart and asks us to be fully open and attentive to the speaker – quieting our reactions, thoughts and ideas. Hopefully, we enter into a listening stance with the assistance and guidance of the Spirit helping us to listen and see with the eyes and ears of the heart.
  6. Hold your desires, opinions and convictions so lightly that you are able to release them and their power over you when you are reaching out to someone. If your advice is sought, avoid any “fix-it” mentality. With the help of the Spirit simply gently guide the conversation into the person’s own reflections and ideas or towards appropriate resources that may assist with decisions.
  7. Be aware that there is no set time frame for grief or for integrating the event of the death of a loved one into one’s life going forward. Even as time passes there are opportunities for you to reach out in love and support. Such times may occur at the anniversary of the death, at a special time like Thanksgiving and Christmas, or at family events when someone who has died may be lovingly remembered.
  8. Carry the family members on your heart and lift them up in your prayers. Prayer is a powerful way to be there for someone and to share your presence. Many speak of the sense of being prayed for and how others’ prayers have comforted, supported, strengthened and sustained them.

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How to talk with my Conservative/Liberal Brother-in-law

It seems inevitable that when families gather, issues of the day will be discussed, often from radically different perspectives. Sometimes these conversations turn heated and take attention away from the spirit of the occasion. In these situations, using spiritual discernment principles can help prevent escalation and may work to strengthen relationships instead.

Here are some guidelines that could help:

  1. As the day of a gathering approaches, try to open your heart to connect with God at the center of the family member you find difficult. Hold him/her in your prayer continually to help the barriers dissipate. Whatever issues may divide the two of you, offer them to God with the prayer that your dedication to God may be stronger than any ties you have to the opinions you hold on issues. As the saying goes, “Let go and let God.”
  2. Prior to possible conversation, keep in mind the words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words.” Actions speak louder than words.
  3. When discussion turns to difficult topics, try to connect with the heart of Christ within that person to help you remain calm. Make every effort to stay centered in God.
  4. Try to learn as much as possible about the reasons this person thinks and feels as he or she does. Prayerfully let questions arise from deep within you to better understand things from their perspective. Steer away from questions that have an accusatory undertone. Do not put words in their mouth. Avoid putting pressure on them or being confrontational. With gentleness pose questions to help open them up, perhaps bringing forth some stories from their life experience that have brought them to where they are. Listen deeply and without judgment. Try to sense their concerns and fears, their hopes and needs. Notice any areas where common ground exists. Be light-hearted. No need to argue.
  5. Once you have gained insight into this relative’s perspective, share your own concerns, your fears, and your life experiences that make you think and feel as you do. Keep in mind that neither one of you needs to try to convert the other to your own position on an issue. The objective is to cultivate mutual understanding, strengthen your relationship, and develop affection for one another.
  6. If you live your convictions without trying to push them off on a family member and at the same time increasingly recognize God within him or her, at some point in time the tenseness in the relationship may ease. A gentler atmosphere may emerge in which both of you are able to speak with sensitivity and listen with respect.

… with God, all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26

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How to forgive someone who has wronged you

Jesus is unequivocal in teaching that we must forgive. Modern psychology reinforces the importance of forgiving, telling us that it frees us to live happier, healthier lives.

Sometimes we want to forgive, we try to forgive, but no matter how hard we try, we cannot make it happen. The process of forgiving can require an intermingling of human persistence with God’s grace. It can come quickly; it can take hours; it may take years. It is not a matter of linear time, but of the fullness of time. Here are some guidelines that can help:

  1. Following the example of the psalms, express your feelings, most especially the anger you have, with strong, raw, unvarnished language—addressed to God. You can do this silently as you lie in bed or sit in a chair, kneel in a church, take a walk or go for a run.  And/or you can find a place where no one can hear you and wail aloud, screaming and pounding if it helps. You can express your feelings by writing or drawing or painting. If writing, you may want to substitute a capital letter for the person’s name to protect his or her identity in case someone might come across what you have written. The important thing is to get the anger and hostility out of your system and offer it to God. Do not put a time limit on how long this will take. In this matter, you are living in God’s time, not human time.
  2. As the tension subsides, start to move on. Try to put yourself in the skin of the person who has offended you. Think about all of their positive attributes—all that is good about their character and personality: their strengths, their talents, their special capabilities. Consider their needs, their sensitivities, the specifics of their background and psychological make-up. Try to feel things from their perspective. Develop compassion for them and empathize with them.
  3. Throughout, hold the person in prayer at the depths of your being. No need for words. Do this on a continuing basis.

No matter how long it takes, persist, trusting that God is working in you.

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How to discuss troubling matters with teens

In times of transition, communication can become challenging. This can be especially true when one is making the difficult transition from childhood. Making room for the peaceful and life-giving Holy Spirit can open up conversations between teens and adults.

Adolescence is a time of transition from childhood to adulthood that is centered in the teen years. As a period of working through issues of identity and independence, it tends to be marked by experimentation and rebellion that reflects a desire to break free and discover one’s own values. Teens can be volatile. Their behavior can fluctuate between mature and childish. They tend to be leery of adult authority, but are more likely to listen to adults who attentively listen to them and treat them with respect. So here are some guidelines that can help communication:

  1. Before initiating conversation on a difficult subject, take time to be still. Let your own thoughts, feelings, and opinions subside so they simply float at the periphery. The more troublesome the issue, the more time this will require. You may need five minutes, you may need five days.
  2. The need for a conversation may be sparked by an emotional flare-up, in which case it probably needs to be dealt with at that time. But if the issue has been developing over an extended period, look for an opportunity to discuss the situation when there will be ample time to listen to one another unrushed by time constraints.
  3. Seek out a comfortable place to talk where interruptions will be unlikely. If you are associated with the teen through your church, be sure to follow all regulations for one-on-one meetings, in a space where others can see you (in a room with a glass door, for example).
  4. Propose that you take a few minutes to just be quiet and get relaxed so that you will be better able to listen to each other. Try to find a serene place deep within yourself and anchor yourself there so you can be a non-agitated, listening presence.
  5. Then invite the teen(s) to explain things from their own point of view. Pose thoughtful questions to help them think things through and to make sure that you fully understand what they are saying. Avoid questions and comments that are accusatory or that might come across as hostile. Try to stay immersed in God’s presence so that you can listen without becoming anxious or irritated. Listen carefully and with respect. Try to see the situation from their perspective.
  6. After you have set the example by seriously listening to them, hopefully having gained an appreciation of their point of view, take a turn to speak yourself. Offer your thoughts and concerns with quiet confidence and with humility. Possibly give some practical examples from your own life experience to illustrate what you are saying. Be true to your own values. Calmly share your honest thoughts and feelings.
  7. Allow reflective dialogue to unfold. Let moments of silence ebb and flow to slow the pace. Afford time for thoughts and feelings from deep within to rise to the surface. Share your convictions honestly, but remember to hold them lightly, remaining open to mutual learning.
  8. As the conversation moves toward a natural conclusion, wrap things up with some warm pleasant words.

If you arrive at a place of mutual understanding, be grateful. If not, be thankful that trust is likely developing and that seeds sown may well be germinating.

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How to listen for God with children

In this process, adults are not teaching children what they know about God. Children and adults are coming to know God together, mutually delighting in one another and in the One who became a child for our sake.

The guidelines below can be used with a group of children (a Sunday school class deciding on a mission project), in a family setting (choosing a pet or dealing with the anticipated death of a grandparent), or with an individual child (choosing extra-curricular activities). While these suggestions can be used in times of crisis such as talking with children about a family illness or a tragedy in the news, practicing during “ordinary” times can pave the way for more difficult conversations. These suggestions anticipate planning, but can be highly effective when used “on the spot” for an issue that may arise quickly and need immediate attention (say, a playground squabble or sibling conflict). Depending on the group’s attention span and age level and the issue at hand, the process described below may take less than 30 minutes or up to an hour.

  1. Consider the setting. Select a space that is comfortable with minimum distractions. Sit on the child’s level, cross-legged on a rug or on the ground if you can. If a group, form a circle, the ancient symbol of equality and sharing. Center yourself in alignment with the Spirit, relaxing your body and your expectations. Focus your attention and your awareness on the children, inviting the Spirit’s movement.
  2. Prepare the children. Talk with them about the listening process you will be using so they know what to expect before you begin. This creates security. For example if the issue is about a pet, you might say, “We have been talking about getting a pet. Why don’t we try to decide on one that will make all of us happy? If we all talk about our ideas and try hard to listen to each other, God can help us come to a good agreement.”  Tailor the conversation to the children’s developmental stage.
  3. Invite silence. Children respond to a cue that marks this time as special, so consider beginning by ringing a singing bowl or lighting a candle to provide focus. Encourage a few deep breathes to bring calm. Be realistic about the length of silence; begin with less than a minute and work up to a minute or more. Your own comfort with silence will be contagious.
  4. Introduce the matter of concern. Consider phrasing it as an opening prayer, putting the conversation clearly in a “listening to God” context. For example: “Dear God, you know our family has been talking about whether to get a pet and what kind we might get. Now we’re asking for your guidance. Help us to listen to one another and to listen to you as we think about your love for all creatures. Amen.” Encourage one of the children to be the next to speak and allow space between speakers.
  5. Check to see if anyone is thinking of a story (from a book, a fairytale, the Bible, their own life) as you start to talk about this topic. If anyone starts to offer a story, gently encourage them to be informal and speak from their own heart. As the adult, be cautious not to choose a story in an effort to make a point that you want to make. Let the children and the Spirit make the meaning.
  6. Allow the conversation to flow. Even in a serious conversation, expect and accept laughter, which often opens the doorway to insight. Let play occur. Be sensitive to sadness or anger if the matter is sad or difficult. Take notice if the conversation becomes repetitive, loses focus, or distractions intervene, and then begin the next steps.
  7. Ask for another period of silence while you all hold the concern together in your hearts. Again, be realistic about the length of silence to expect, but also prepare to be surprised at the children’s capacity for it.
  8. Invite artistic expression. Present art materials such as clay, paper and markers or crayons, or pipe cleaners. Encourage the children to express their feelings through these materials without concern for a finished “product.” A playful approach frees everyone to reflect without judgment from themselves or others in the group (see “Drawing as Spiritual Discernment”). Invite them to look at what they’ve created and to think about it privately for a minute.
  9. Ask the children to consider what God might be saying to them through their artwork. If this is too abstract, begin with open-ended questions, modeled on the “wondering” questions used in the approach known as Godly Play: I wonder what part of your drawing you like best? What part is most important? What part is most about [this concern]? What part surprises you? These questions have no right or wrong answers and may lead to other questions. Often, a child needs time and silence to form a response. We lose precious wisdom if we rush to fill in the gaps.
  10. Listen with respect to everything each child says. Affirm comments without judgment. Share your own thoughts, too, but let the children direct the flow.
  11. Sense when the Spirit has moved the group to consensus. Ask if there seems to be agreement on the matter, or if the group needs to spend some more time together another day. Assure the children that either way is OK.

End with prayer and encouragement. Mark the end of this time of listening by repeating any gesture used at opening (ringing the singing bowl or extinguishing the candle).

Let the children know that they can ask to use this way of talking and listening any time they have a decision to make or something they want to talk about. Allow initiative to come from the children as well as from you. Using this process frequently for small events or issues provides practice so that the children — and you — are ready when bigger issues arise.

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How to use a contemplative discussion in place of a sermon in a worship service

Learn how to design the teaching portion of a worship service so that the teaching comes from the whole congregation, listening together for the voice of the Spirit.

Worship services may be structured in many ways, but typically they include what is called a sermon, homily, or message. A sermon involves discernment and exploring what the Spirit is saying to God’s people through the Word as articulated through the human messenger. Usually this portion of the service is provided by a clergyperson or designated worship leader who has studied relevant Scriptural passages, developed the message and then delivers the sermon to the congregation. An alternative to having the sermon delivered by only one person is to involve the entire congregation in this part of the service using contemplative and reflective listening practices as promoted in the Listening Hearts literature.  

A group reflective process in place of the sermon has the benefits of a message arising from the work of the Spirit in the hearts and minds of a variety of people who listen deeply to the Word, reflect on what arises out of their attention to the Spirit within themselves and others, and then give voice to the revelation that emerges. It offers a remarkable synergistic approach. This process is most effective in smaller congregations where attendees number no more than 40, but can work with larger gatherings of up to 100. When using this approach consider the following important steps:

  1. The usual amount of time allotted for this portion of the service ranges from 15 to 40 minutes depending upon denominational practices and congregational expectations as to the length of the whole worship service, which often includes hymns, prayers, other readings, offerings, blessings, and may include Holy Communion.
  2. Select the passages to be used. The common lectionary shared by several mainline churches lists four Scripture readings for each Sunday, but many congregations prefer limiting the number of Scripture selections to one or two.
  3. Periods of silence between Scripture readings and before and after each participant reflection are essential. Prayerful silence after each reading allows time for the message to seep in. Likewise, a bit of reverent silence after a person has offered a reflection helps the group absorb what was said.
  4. Identify the readers in advance and give them copies of their appointed readings so they can become familiar with what they will be reading. Ideally, distribute copies of the readings to the entire congregation in advance of the service, asking them to read and reflect on them in preparation for the service.
  5. Consider using more than one voice for the readings. At times, it can be effective to have a female read one half of a reading and a male the other half.
  6. At the conclusion of the readings, invite the congregation to reflect on them as they speak to their own lives and then share their reflections as the Spirit moves them.
  7. So that everyone can hear what is being said, it is important for those who share reflections to speak loudly and clearly, possibly standing to better project their voice.
  8. Cultivate a culture in which people respond to one another with sensitivity and respect. This means to neither attack, contradict, nor belittle what others say.
  9. At the conclusion of the sharing time, a worship leader offers a suitable prayer or a few words that weave together the various reflections, giving thanks for the Spirit’s presence and movement among the congregation.  Encourage the congregation to continue their reflections during the week to come.

Then move to the next portion of the service.

It can be useful to make copies of these guidelines and offer them to the congregation for discussion before implementing them.

Copyright. Listening Hearts Ministries, 2013.
Copies of this material may be made for use by spiritual
or educational groups. Please acknowledge the source.

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How to be a listening, discerning presence when visiting with an elderly person

When you are visiting with an elderly person, be it a social visit or because the elder is facing decisions crucial to their quality of life, the underlying principles and basic approaches put forth in the Listening Hearts Series of books can be useful. Deep centered listening, caring attentiveness, and an aura of spaciousness facilitate an environment that preserves the dignity of the older person and leads to sustainable outcomes when addressing issues related to the care, living situation, health, safety, and general well-being of the individual.

The guidelines that follow apply to one- on- one visits with an elderly person wherever they may occur. A future posting will focus on visits with elders when representing a congregation, working with a partner, or as part of a team.

  1. When planning a time to visit with an aged person, consider the timing with sensitivity to their schedule for the day, aware of meal times, naps, medical and physical therapy appointments, and organized activities. When applicable, check with the person’s primary caregiver regarding issues such as anxiety, confusion, and medication that may affect the person’s mental or emotional availability.
  2. Allow sufficient time in your schedule so as not to be rushed. An elderly person may really look forward to spending time with you, especially if they feel lonely, isolated, bored, useless, or neglected. On the other hand, be sensitive to possible physical or emotional limitations that may point to a short visit.
  3. Be aware of any of your own personal issues that could interfere with your attentiveness to the person. Take time beforehand to clear yourself of anything that might distract you or hijack your ability to be present to the one you are visiting.
  4. In advance of the visit, hold the person in your heart with prayerful attentiveness. Listen deeply for any guidance the Spirit may be providing you.
  5. Be alert to any hearing or seeing limitations the elderly person may have. Sound him or her out to determine the best place for you to sit, considering issues such as their “good” or “bad” ear or their ability to see your face. For example, avoid sitting in front of an unshaded window with the sun behind your head.
  6. Before settling in for a conversation, identify distractions such as your cell phone, a radio or TV that is on, open doors to noisy hallways. Float suggestions or take steps to address any distractions. Consider privacy and confidentiality issues.
  7. Settle yourself in God’s presence so as to transmit a calm, centered ambience that will relax the one you are visiting. This can invite conversation and trust. Should challenging or disturbing topics or emotions emerge, rely on the Divine Presence for guidance and support.
  8. Listen receptively with heart opened wide and mind attentive, alert to your intuitive spaces.
  9. Listen with your whole self: senses, feelings, intuition, imagination, and rational faculties. Communication is roughly 7% actual words, 38% tone of voice, inflection, range, etc., and 55% body language. Keep this in mind throughout as you listen to the person with whom you are visiting. Listen carefully for words that could be particularly significant. Pay attention to voice and body language. And do not forget the reverse: that your own voice and body language communicate much to the person with whom you are speaking.
  10. Do not be bossy, confrontational, or argumentative, which can be disruptive and unsettling to the person you are visiting. Therefore, hold your desires, opinions, and even your convictions lightly.
  11. Do not cling to your preconceived ideas for the other person’s life. If there are difficult decisions that the older person needs to make, refrain from telling them what they should or should not do. Rather, pose thoughtful, caring, reflective, and evocative questions to help them reach their own conclusions. In some cases, however, the most appropriate route may be to simply listen, particularly if the person has dementia and is incapable of making decisions.   And, of course, there are times when issues related to health and well being require immediate and unilateral action.
  12. When thorny issues arise, allow quiet spaces to weave into the conversation, allowing opportunities for prayerful listening and quiet reflection. Wait for the Holy Spirit within you to craft your questions or observations.
  13. When it is time to take your leave, be as warm, cheerful, positive, and affirming as possible.
Copyright. Listening Hearts Ministries, 2013.
Copies of this material may be made for use by spiritual
or educational groups. Please acknowledge the source.

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How to achieve group consensus around a difficult issue

Spiritual discernment begins with the rational and progresses toward the very center of our being. This movement from the head into the heart is crucial. First, give careful attention to assembling information and ideas. Evaluate them. Then let the mind descend into the heart. Stay there, centered in God’s presence, seeking signs of the Spirit. (From Grounded in God, p. 78.)

  1. Develop a clear statement of what you are gathered to consider. Work the statement into a concise question addressed to God, such as, “God, what would you have us do about . . . ?” or “God, where are you leading us to go with . . . ?”
  2. Prayerfully review the DISCERNMENT LISTENING GUIDELINES from Grounded in God: Listening Hearts Discernment for Deliberative Groups, p. 57. Laminated copies of these GUIDELINES may be purchased form Listening Hearts Ministries. Each person is responsible for keeping the entire group grounded in these guidelines.
  3. Observe several minutes of CENTERING SILENCE. (Agree on the exact number of minutes you will remain in silence.) Someone pre-identified, conclude with prayer at the appointed time.
  4. If this concern is one the group has been wrestling with for a while, enter into a brief review of the points already agreed upon, or the consensus reached so far.
  5. Now turn to the Discernment Question, restating it for purposes of clarity and precision. You will need to stay clearly on topic during the next phase.
  6. Take the time you need to pool information, ideas and concerns.
  7. Identify options, perhaps listing them on a flip chart.
  8. Evaluate the options in terms of the realities you face—the cost, the probability of making it happen, the possibility of finding volunteers to carry it out, etc.
  9. Proceed with sensitivity to the needs of all, including individual or shared fears and insecurities. Be aware that a controversial situation may touch off grieving in some people and that they may need time to work through it.
  10. Each person should look for ways to bring together strands from differing views.
  11. Select a Scripture for reflection. One suggestion is Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. 
  12. Then, each person find a quiet place for reflection on the Scripture as it relates to the question for discernment. You may focus on a phrase or even a single word in the Scripture. Hold this and the question in your heart, opening yourself completely to God. Remain in silence. You may wish to hold something in your hand to help you focus: a small cross, a ball of clay, a smooth rock. Suggestions: If a labyrinth is available, you may wish to walk the labyrinth as you reflect on the Scripture and the question for discernment. Or walk around the meeting place, inside or outside, or find a quiet place and sit.
  13. Come back to the circle at the appointed time.
  14. Each person who wishes to may offer the fruits of their reflection around the chosen Scripture. Listen to others from the center of your being. Avoid discussion or comment in order to stay in a deep place.
  15. Look for signs of the Spirit that emerge from the sharing of reflections. Signs of the Spirit are discussed in both Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community and Grounded in God: Listening Hearts Discernment for Deliberative Groups. See Chapter 5 in both books. The one sign of the Spirit that is imperative for spiritual consensus is for all present to share a sense of God’s peace. It is important that anyone who feels a sense of agitation or uneasiness speak up, so that the group can try to identify its source. If anyone feels uncomfortable with where the group is going, it signals that more prayerful discernment is needed. Other signs are clarity, joy, energy, persistence (when the same message keeps coming through different channels), and convergence (when points that seem to be unconnected merge.)
  16. At this point, you may be able to articulate consensus around the action you want to take on the issue. Or the consensus may be that another session is essential. Or you may indicate where you have found consensus and schedule another meeting to take up points still under consideration. If possible, articulate the consensus in one sentence.
  17. Whatever the consensus, the next step is to develop a Plan of Action to identify exactly what steps need to be taken and who will be responsible for each step.
  18. If the group likes to sing, choose a closing hymn or chant.
  19. Closing Prayers. Someone volunteer to open and close the prayer, leaving time in between for everyone who wishes to offer a prayer to do so.
  20. You may conclude by Passing the Peace, an opportunity for everyone to greet everyone else with “The peace of the Lord be with you.”
Copyright. Listening Hearts Ministries, 2013.
Copies of this material may be made for use by spiritual
or educational groups. Please acknowledge the source.

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How to structure small groups for in-depth sharing

Learn how to structure a small group to encourage mutual sharing
from the deep heart or center of each participant,
not primarily from the intellect. 

Among other possibilities, this kind of group might be used for:

  • Sharing the fruits of a meditation exercise
  • Developing consensus around an issue facing a group
  • Reflecting on a Scripture passage
  • Reflecting on a book participants have read
  • Considering a proposal that has been presented to a group
  • Creative brainstorming about a project or shared challenge
  • Sharing personal stories of life experiences
  • Wrestling with a difficult issue
  • Responding to an evocative question before the group
  • Planning liturgies
  • Planning retreat sessions

The ideal size for this kind of group is four people. But these guidelines can work for a considerably larger group or even for as few as two people. The most effective way for a group to honor prescribed procedures is to ask that everyone in the group consider it a responsibility to help the group follow them, practicing collaborative leadership.

The first time a given group meets, if all participants do not already know one another well, each person might take a minute or so to introduce him or her self, giving a little personal background, including any relevant experience in relation to the topic being considered. Thereafter, the group can simply assemble in silence. Negotiate the length of the silence beforehand: at least two minutes, better yet five or ten minutes.

  1. Begin with the agreed upon amount of silence. trying to feel God at the center of your being and at the center of the group. Try to open yourself—body, mind, and spirit—to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Let the divine presence wash over you.
  2. Then each person who would like to offer reflections on the appointed topic or questions take one turn to do so. Do not rush. Pauses to absorb what has been said can be fruitful. So that everyone who wants to speak has an opportunity to do so, try to not take more than your fair share of time. Although it is beneficial for each person to share, no one should feel obligated to do so. Anyone may simply say  “I pass.”
  3. Try to listen from your very center, prayerfully receiving what each person says. Let God’s presence penetrate the group. Try to connect with Christ at the center of each person. Avoid discussion and comment because entering into dialogue takes people from their depths back into their heads. It is best to neither approve nor disapprove the thoughts or feelings that anyone expresses; this helps people to remain unselfconscious. Allow silence between speakers.
  4. When it is time to conclude, one or more persons pull threads together with a suitable quotation from Scripture or elsewhere—or with some words that weave reflections together, perhaps in the form of a prayer.
Copyright. Listening Hearts Ministries, 2012.
Copies of this material may be made for use by spiritual
or educational groups. Please acknowledge the source.

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