“Be a lamp, a lifeboat or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.” Rumi (1207-1273), Daily Quotes,, May 3, 2018.

Paula Volpe

Paula Volpe

Sometimes I think if I were to redesign a program about spiritual direction that 90% of the time would be devoted to listening. My experience is that listening is one of the best tools of the Holy Spirit within us. I am talking about active listen where we clear our heads as much as possible of agendas and what is going on in our lives. We offer up the gift of time for forty-five minutes or an hour to listen to someone else’s life. For this short period of time we are given the privilege of caring for the soul of another, helping a person realize God’s never-failing presence in his or her own presence.

I sit and all these great ideas come to me as I listen. “I think she would like this book. Changing to this spiritual exercise might be helpful.”

I am learning that if I interrupt with my ideas, they often fall on deaf ears, but if I wait until there is silence and speak, the person seems to see and hear better what I might suggest. Sometimes as I wait, I later realize, “no, this was not the right book or spiritual exercise.”

I have learned a great deal about listening from my harp. Perhaps you have occasionally noticed a loud buzzing sound when some harpists play. Buzz. One of the reasons for a buzz is that you have plucked a string that is still vibrating from a recent placement of that finger or another finger on that string. You must wait for that string to stop vibrating before you play it again or this annoying sound comes out.

My buzzing harp is reminding me that I must wait for the person I am visiting with to stop talking.

I am learning how to play less buzzing notes and to talk less and listen more at the same time. My buzzing harp string has become my icon for listening.

Listening can become a “lamp, a lifeboat, and a ladder” to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our own lives as well as the lives of our spiritual friends.



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