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Listening

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Listening

An elder monk was visiting a friend in the big city. They were walking down a street filled with people, vehicles, construction and a cacophony of noise surrounded them. As they were talking the elder monk paused and said; “I hear a cricket.” His friend raised an eyebrow as the monk went over to a section of the concrete sidewalk which had been carved out and filled with dirt and a small tree. Sure enough, after looking for a moment, he pointed out the chirping insect.

His friend was amazed! “How did you hear the cricket amidst all this noise?” The elder monk smiled and replied; “You hear what you are listening for.” The friend, still astonished, shook his head. “Do you have a coin?” his monk friend asked. “Here,” said the friend as he gave it to him. “Now, watch.” the monk ordered. The elder flipped the coin in the air and let it land on the ground making a tinkling noise. Several people stopped and began looking. “Do you understand?” asked the elder monk with a smile.

One of my favorite wisdom parables. It is a reminder that our lives are about listening to the truthful, just and grace filled voices and sounds in this world. Too often we allow the negative noise into our lives which drowns out the voices of God, nature and the sound of the spirit of each other.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Uncontrollable Words

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Uncontrollable Words –

The other day I was cornered by someone who felt they needed to tell me something…actually, it was a lot of somethings. This person kept going on and on and on. I could literally feel myself wearing down from all the words, phrases that were being thrown my way. We weren’t communicating. I was doing my best to listen at first but after a while, I noticed they were just throwing words at me hoping something would stick. I was wrestling with which would be better; sticking my fingers in my ear while chanting; “La, la, la, la.” Grabbing a passerby and introducing the person to them hoping their focus would shift and I could sneak away or just making a break for it, running and seeing if they would pursue.

I was speaking, communicating, with another person last week about the art of talking and listening to another person. Wisdom tells us that true conversation is a sacred act. Meeting someone new, hearing secrets, weaknesses, dreams, memories, connecting on a deeper level requires not just words and phrases but silence and pauses. We allow the other’s being to be revealed and we share our own. This can’t be done if we never take a breath, if we are only wanting to be heard not also wanting to hear.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Self-Awareness

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I was listening to a few people participate in a discussion this week on the topic of Donald Trump. The Donald is polarizing! I have yet to meet anyone who’s neutral on him and this presidential race unless they’ve given up on the election entirely.

The central point/question of the conversation was why some people seem to find it impossible to apologize. People who are wrong, off course, exhibit faulty judgement, have it shown, proven, to them yet they still refuse to say; “I’m sorry.

What does this reveal about a person’s character? Last night, in our incarcerated dad’s class, we talked about the five characteristics of a good man. The first characteristic is, “Self-Awareness.” We  defined self-awareness as; “someone who can look in a mirror and see who he is; the good, the bad, what he does well and what he needs to improve.”

Only with honesty and humility are we able to understand our true nature, strengths and weaknesses, and there is no such thing as being free from flaws or defects. Accepting our own limitations does two things; it frees us from the pursuit, illusion of perfection when it comes to ourselves and it lets us love others better because we understand our journey is one of progression not perfection.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Fear Doesn’t Work that Way

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Fear Doesn’t Work that Way

Last night, the Mrs. and I were late going out to water our flowers and bushes. I grabbed my brightest flashlight and went out the front door. Just beyond our porch there is a huge Oak tree. As I stepped off it something falling from the tree caught my eye. I shined the light on the flowers beneath the tree trying to find the object. Seeing nothing I then illuminated the area where whatever fell came from. That’s when I noticed movement and it didn’t take me long to see it was a large Rat Snake  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_snake), in fact there were two of them. As soon as Beth heard the word snake she wouldn’t get near the tree. I told her they were non-poisonous, not fond of humans and kept the mice and rodent population down. This didn’t dissuade her nor reduce her fear of snakes.

In an episode of; “Sports Night,”(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sports_Night) Dan and Casey, two sports anchors, were discussing a fear Casey was experiencing. Dan says to Casey; “Don’t be afraid!” Casey smiles and replies; “Fear doesn’t work that way.”

Fear has a way of reaching down inside of us and finding a place to reside where mere words, logic and assurance have a hard time dislodging. Being afraid is primal. It often triggers; fight, flight or freeze response. Too often we judge and don’t understand another’s fears, especially if we don’t share it. We try our best to talk them out of being afraid or tell them how to work through their fright. The best response, however, is to listen, understand, don’t judge, don’t push and allow them to work through their fears in their own time and their own pace.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
thewannabesaint.com

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Not Real

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I was speaking with a friend this week who’s struggling with three things; judgmental thoughts, judgmental words and judgmental actions. The latter follow the first and are causing difficulties with people he holds dear. “I don’t want to speak harshly and condemningly to those I love but I can’t seem to stop the thoughts from expressing themselves.” He sighed. “What if your thoughts weren’t real?” I asked him. “What if your thoughts were just clouds of words floating through your mind and have no substance? What if they didn’t define your reality and only became form and influence when you plucked them out of the sky of your mind and made them into tangible words or actions?” While he considered this I quoted to him one of my favorite wisdom sayings from Aristotle; “The mark of a wise mind is the ability to think a thought without believing it to be true.

When we judge others, even only in our minds, we are forcing our limited understanding of what’s real, normal, acceptable onto their limited understanding of the same. When we label someone as lacking we’ve actually judged ourselves. We show our minds, emotions and wisdom to be lacking.

Thoughts are meant to be considered, reflected upon, examined in broad and focused ways. We are to seek to understand and then be understood. When judgement fills our minds, hearts and spirits there’s no more room for wisdom, compassion, relationship.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Being So Sensitive

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This morning I was part of a discussion that dealt with the question; “What is a sensitive person?” The answers, be they positive or negative, depended a lot on whether or not you considered being sensitive a positive or negative trait. 

For some being sensitive was empathy, an awareness of the mood of a room or a person. For others being sensitive had more to do with being “thin skinned“, wearing one’s heart on their sleeves, not being able to take a joke or criticism.

Later, I attended a worship service where the choir included a person who sang vocally and with sign language. I watched this lady use her hands, and sometimes entire body, to communicate both the words of the song and the voice of her spirit.

Many times in our conversations with others we only hear their words or wait impatiently for them to take a breath so we can begin to talk. Listening to someone is more than recognizing the words they speak. It’s also hearing what isn’t said; the tone of voice, trembling, whispers, loudness, hyperbole, flailing of arms and legs or not moving at all. If we’re receptive we can pick up on pain, struggle, doubt and fear that’s expressed through a myriad of ways.

Wisdom teaches us that being sensitive, empathetic, willing to listen to the other with our ears and our spirits is a rare and needed gift. Oftentimes what someone doesn’t say may be exactly what they need us to hear.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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What We Need to Hear

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Earlier today there was a debate about culture, the state of America, the Bible, who is and isn’t loved, accepted by God. There are times when discussions are necessary and fruitful but in my experience debates do not fit into this category. I stated my unwillingness to engage, offered a blessing, excused myself and exited.

As a Benedictine Oblate one of the key tenets is humility which is rarely found in arguing or defending one’s opinions and beliefs. Another tenet is the discipline of using few words, silence and the awareness that; “In a flood of words one cannot avoid sin.” The Rule of Benedict doesn’t say we shouldn’t talk but that our words have the power of doing positive or negative, blessing or cursing, giving life or death.

 

So many people scream their opinions over the airwaves, on TV, multiple social media sites, and at each other. I wonder if refusing to engage, gracefully, humbly bowing out of arguments, praying instead of pontificating, if more silence might just be what our world needs to hear.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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Listen… Carefully

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A neighbor walked over to our yard on Wednesday night and told my wife he could come over on Thursday and cut down some overgrown bushes, weeds and grass that’s in the middle of a small pond on our property. There would be no charge and all he needed was our “Okay.” which she gave him. When we arrived home yesterday he’d done what he said and it looked great. Yesterday evening he came back over and I thanked him for doing it.

I met this gentleman on a cold morning last December soon after my wife and I moved in. He stopped by to introduce himself. He’s a normal looking fellow, country born and raised but I noticed right away he has speech impediment. It can be hard to understand him unless you listen carefully.

There’s a spiritual discipline called contemplative listening.  It teaches that a person should set aside their agendas, appointments, task lists and still their thoughts in conversations with each other. We’re not to plan what we’re going to say next while the other person speaks but to soak in every word, feeling and experience the conversation as an act of love and empathy. It requires a slowing down and a belief the present moment and conversation can be worship, a recognition of God in the midst of his Creation.

It is an incredibly hard discipline which I struggle with greatly but each time I encounter my neighbor I am reminded of the need to practice and listen…carefully.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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To Obey

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This morning I sat between two large trees and listened to the wind blow up a hill behind the house.

I opened my Bible and read Psalm 81:

“Listen to me, O my people, while I am speaking with you.
If you would only listen to me.

You must never let your heart be given to another;
you must not declare your love for one who cannot love you as I do.

For it was I, who can save you from the deepest, darkest place. I who will hold and protect you from those who seek your soul.
Open your heart and spirit and I will fill it with all things good.

But no, my people wouldn’t listen.
They did not want me around.
So I let them go and they fell in love and gave themselves to another.

Oh, my Beloved, I still whisper your name. Listen to me.
Oh, that you would walk with me, hand in hand, to the place I long to take you.”

Obedience has a bad wrap. It’s a word with echoes of dominance, coercion and power over another, when it is spoken.

Obedience actually means “to hear, to listen.” To heed someone’s word. In a scriptural sense it is the bending of the ear, the opening of the heart, the willingness of the spirit to listen to the Lover of our souls and trust he wants and knows what’s best for us.

I listened this morning as the breeze shuffled leaves, swayed branches and tickled the grass. I listened and in the wind I heard my name…

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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The Shut Up Game

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Each of us have someone in our lives with whom we’d like to play the “shut up”  game. Folks who drive us crazy with their incessant talking, advice giving, complaining or a combination of all the above. People like this can wear us out. We wonder how they stay conscious without pausing to take a breath or if there will be enough oxygen for the other occupants standing nearby. Perhaps we’ve been that person.image

I was listening to a man yesterday who told me; “It’s taken most of my life but I finally learned to start thinking before I started talking.”  It wasn’t a quip or an off handed remark. He knew firsthand the pain caused by not having a filter for his lips, a guard for his tongue. He bore the scars of ruined relationships and opportunities lost because he didn’t know how to be quiet or how to listen.

Seek first to understand then be understood. #StephenCovey

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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