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The Art of Inner Listening

In the conclusion of the 26th chapter of Job, there is found this wonderful passage, and I quote: “In all this is the mere fringe of his force. The faintest whisper we hear of him! Who knows, then, the full thunder of his power?” [Job 26:14] And of course, we remember that Jesus also said, “Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not?” [Mark 8:18] This is the great dilemma of man. For, as Walter Pater [1839-1894, English essayist and critic] once said, “All life is a kind of listening.” The darkness, fear, lack, and limitation we experience are evidence of our failure to be responsive to the Limitlessness, the Abundance, and the Affluence of God all around us…and within us.

We think of the ear when we speak of listening, but, actually, we listen with our mind. The very word, “listen,” connotes an inward response to outward stimuli, a sensitivity to vibration…and vibration is everywhere. We can, and ultimately must, cultivate the ability to hear and to heed the message of the Infinite Creative Process. We must develop a sensitivity to good vibrations.

The mental picture we form from the perceptions that come to us, depend entirely on our individual make-up. We are like radio receiving stations with thousands of signals reaching us constantly, and we choose which one to tune in to. One may appreciate the sound of raindrops, or you can dread their sound. One may listen to the message of the great silent stars of the universe with awe at their mystical grandeur, or he can simply be afraid of the dark. One may listen to joy or sorrow, success or failure, optimism or fear.

Every person is equipped to hear from birth, but the faculty of hearing rightly and listening selectively must be cultivated. The radio, the television, the newspapers all spread a wide range of information. So the question is: What are you listening to? Your associations through the day express many and varied opinions on many subjects. Now, to what do you respond, and what is the character of the response? To what are you sympathetic? To what are you most sensitive?

While hearing, itself, falls within the realm of the sense, true listening is actually extrasensory in nature, because it is primarily a feeling, a consciousness. In other words, a Beethoven symphony is being played, but by no means does every listener really hear, by no means does each person get the message, sense the intricacies of the musical flow. A priceless painting is viewed by many persons, but only a few really appreciate its aesthetics. True listening is perception of ideas, appropriation of Truth, which commands concentration, discrimination, humility, and flexibility. It requires open-mindedness, minimizing the prejudices that are deep within us all—evaluating objectively and listening to what is being said, rather than who is saying it.

When we are attuned to the dimension of Truth, when we take the time to listen with patience, it is absolutely amazing how many wonderful ideas will come to us from the ordinary conversation of those around us. But, we must be really listening with humility and with love. Conversation with any person should commence with tuning in on the Divine Level within—within yourself and within the other person. The Oriental expression, “Namaskar,” means, “I salute the Divinity within you.” It’s a beautiful thought; it’s one that I use often. The Christian might put it in another way, “I behold the Christ in you,” which is to say the same thing. Through expressions such as these, you can express from the depth within you, knowing that there is that in you which is harmonious with that in the other person. In this way, you will understand and be understood, no matter if what the other is saying happens to be poorly stated or is intended to be mean. Your creative listening will be a blessing to him, influencing him to express on the highest possible level. And, when on that level, you tend to draw out of him thoughts that he will be proud of.

There is a statement that we have used often. It is, “I hear and heed the Voice of God.” This is a thought that means that one is responsive to the depth level of Truth. “I hear and heed the Voice of God.” It is a good thought to start every day by hearing the good that is manifesting in all things and in all persons, by finding the Creative Flow, the Divine Voice in all persons, in all conditions, in all circumstances, whether they are sordid or uplifting, whether they are good or bad. It is my sincere conviction that guidance is ever within us and that, as Emerson says, “By lowly listening, we will hear the right word.” I believe that guidance is a Principle, not a special act of God, and that whenever we tune in, there is a Divine Reaction, a Divine Response, a Divine Unfoldment that leads and directs and guides. The indecisive person, who is always running about seeking advice, simply doesn’t listen. He is not tuned in to his Inner Depth.

Cultivate your ability to listen. And in quiet meditation, know that you’re being charged with the Voice of Power and Wisdom. Then, pray without ceasing, to carry this listening attitude into your actual relationships with others. In this way, you will find wonderful things coming to you from, perhaps, unexpected sources. When you become an artful listener, when you “practice the Presence of God,” you will find guidance everywhere.

Now, you may not have dramatic experiences, such as did Moses when God spoke to him through the burning bush. [Exodus 3:2] And yet, through cultivations of “The Art of Inner Listening,” you will hear a “Small Voice” in every need. Tell yourself, over and over, “I hear and heed the voice of God.” At the beginning of the day, resolve to listen to inspiration, even from unpleasant things and discordant notes. Remember that you are One with God, and that “…your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” [Matthew 6:8] God knows, and God is speaking. Are you listening? There is an answer to whatever may be your need, today. There is guidance for you—direction, leadings—present within you all the time, not just when you beg and plead and ask God for it. It is always there! “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.” Just be still and listen.

Here is a technique for times when guidance is needed: Close your eyes and be still, and say softly, and with assurance, something like: “Father, I’m listening.” You will find marvelous guidance manifested in you. You won’t have to outline your problem and tell God what your need is. Just listen…the Father knows, even before you ask. You will feel a great sense of conviction, a sense of assurance, a sense of spontaneity. And…you will be led. Remember, Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” [Rev. 3:20]

Your guidance, your very own guidance, may come directly or it may come indirectly—maybe in a conversation or through the inspiration of a piece of great music. It may come in a dream. It may come while you are quietly reflecting or meditating on the Truth. But it will come…when you develop “The Art of Inner Listening.”

© Eric Butterworth