Introduction to Authentic Conversations (Meditation, Contemplative Listening & Reflection)

When I registered and paid SGD50 for this workshop on 22 August, I thought it will be conducted like a seminar. I saw the ad in Catholic News, a fortnightly newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, and was intrigued by the header.

I was hoping to learn something to help others and my friend’s family came into mind. She left behind her mother and elder sister.

(It goes to prove that people read headers, without even understanding what the content is about and we jumped to conclusions. Don’t we all?)

Instead, what greeted me was small groups of 4 people each seated in a semicircle, facing Lance & Celina (facilitators). Christian music played in the background (What else, right. It’s after all a Catholic session) while we chew on our thoughts and writings.

Conducted on the grounds of Kingsmead Centre, the environment served an excellent getaway from the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan areas in Singapore. With lush greenery surrounding its premises and nested amongst huge private properties, its serenity welcomes burdened visitors, who need a refreshing change, to her arms.

Listen to Self

Introduction to Authentic Conversations (Meditation, Contemplative Listening & Reflections) - Joy

We were given a booklet each, which detailed the workshop schedule, list of feeling words and reflection exercises.

Our first task was to simply listen to ourselves and ask “How Do I Feel Now?” More often than not, we don’t even have time to slow down and listen to our inner voice, let alone for others.

We also picked a picture each and let it speak to us.

After our silent reflections, each one of us shared our thoughts with our neighbour while the other party had to listen without interrupting. We can only reply “Thank You” – no other comments allowed.

How many times are we tempted to speak, even before the person finishes talking?

I, for one, is guilty of it.

Because as written in the booklet, “The objective is to listen and so be present to one another. We are not there to fix, solve or teach, as we reach out to each other as equals.”

It just struck me – there, my answer.

I sensed that fixing people up has that undercurrent judgemental feel and to feed my ego, like I’m more superior to others – which I am not.

One of our facilitators also pointed out that by giving empathy, is it because of our anxiety? Is it my anxiety?

Sometimes all a person needs is a listening ear and comfort from another person, in times of grief and distress. And it is alright we do not have solutions.

We just need to let him/her know we’re here to walk with them alongside in their lives.

True conversation begins with presence. (hover over image to tweet)

True conversation begins with presence. Are you thirsting for real conversations?

Reflect:

  • When was the last time you had a chance to simply stop and listen?
  • What captured you as you entered into contemplation? Take note of the feelings associated with what you are experiencing?
  • Have a conversation with Jesus about what you have experienced.
  • Journal what you have received.

Listen to Other

“She spoke and I felt joy” (hover over image to tweet)
She spoke and I felt joy. Are you thirsting for real conversations?

As we advanced to the next part of the session “Listen to Other”, we began to share in our small groups and then reflect with the rest of the participants.

With our sharing in a bigger group, we gained further insights. One of the participants revealed she felt joy when her teammate spoke.

Isn’t this amazing? Yes.

Because even without responding (remember, we’re not allowed to interrupt or comment, other than ‘Thank You’), she as the listener is actually encouraged for her own life journey and felt joy!

We think we need to do something, be effective and productive – or so, that’s how the world molded us.

Yet in this testimonial, all she did was to listen and be open – And, she was affected.

Another participant added that even she was curious and wanted to help the other person, she was left feeling useless. It goes contrary to the world’s notion of “usefulness” and we feel inadequate.

Don’t we all sometimes feel this way?

We are different, we are one – in this shared humanity. Because each of us has individual skills that complement one another, even if it’s just listening.

Your strength, my weakness.

My strength, your weakness.

Let’s welcome unity in the midst of diversity.

Reflect

  • What was happening to you interiorly, as you listened to the other share? What resonated, or perhaps challenged you?
  • Name the feelings that were present
  • Have a conversation with Jesus about what you have experienced.
  • Journal what you have received.

The Irony of It All

Introduction to Authentic Conversations (Meditation, Contemplative Listening & Reflections) - Couple

…is that this workshop titled “Introduction to Authentic Conversations” is not about equipping us with a skills set to learn how to speak to someone at a deeper level.

Instead, the entire emphasis was on how to listen at a deeper level – to self, to other, to a group and to God.

It challenges us to be aware of our feelings first, and then help us to connect soul-to-soul.

  • How are you feeling today? – angry, humbled, unnerving etc.
  • What is happening here, as you read this post or hear the other talk?
  • Was it a huge effort to listen actively to this person?
  • What are you trying not to face?

Only when we have a strong foundation (with the help of His grace), then we can prevent ourselves be washed away by someone’s tides.

Buck The Film

Introduction to Authentic Conversations (Meditation, Contemplative Listening & Reflections) - Buck The Film

After our lunch, we watched a short clip from the movie called Buck. It is based on a true story about the American cowboy Buck Brannaman, who is known as “The Horse Whisperer”, and has a unique way in communicating with horses.

What we took away was there is a choice to how we respond to our lot. Buck is a calm man despite having an abusive childhood.

“Your horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see. Sometimes, you will.” – Buck in Buck The Film (hover over image to tweet)

Are you thirsting for real conversations?

His horse is calm. In contrast, the lady had her stud uncontrollable and running wild.

Like Buck, if we could take up the courage and invitation to growth despite knowing we’ll be uncomfortable to facing it, we will also be able to break free from the chain of destruction and hurt (to self and others).

Listen to Care

Introduction to Authentic Conversations (Meditation, Contemplative Listening & Reflections) - Heart

In our last reading for the workshop (Luke 10:38-42), Jesus visits Martha and Mary. In the story, Martha provided hospitality while her sister, Mary, sat at His feet and listened to what He was saying.

Martha complained to Jesus about Mary and implored Him to ask her sister to help. Instead, Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you’re worried and distracted by many things; There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Mary was peaceful, while Martha was burdened and frustrated.

When we don’t contemplate like Mary, we will become reactive like Martha.

We lose our focus and become uneasy – because we will feel our worth is based on what we do.

But God differs. Jesus appreciates and values us just who are, even if we are unable to return anything of the same value.

Are you a contemplative in action? If you do, you will feel love, peace and joy.