When you ask a monk a question, ask another and you may get a very different answer. It’s clear the fourteen of us – or even just a few – have a whole lot to say and many perspectives. We began with a long list of topics to discuss and from the start we had much to share.
We are so grateful to work with Jay Vogt, our organizational consultant and facilitator, this year. From our varied topics and desires, Jay created an overall scheme for the year and worked with a team of Brothers to plan the sessions. As more thoughts and desires emerged through the year, Jay kept adapting. Referring to our past intentions, the planned scheme for the year, and discoveries from recent discussions, he gave options for where we could go next. Jay prompted next steps and helped us proceed. He organized and facilitated sessions, keeping us all involved.
Jay attentively listens to us, individually and as a group. He synthesizes what he hears. He notes patterns and themes. He makes connections. He visually shows our comments and their connections on a board as we converse. He helps show how our disparate comments fit together, identifying themes as we work and summarizing the most significant insights in his post-meeting notes.
In our ministries, we Brothers often listen to others, but we are also helped by others listening to us. We each receive spiritual direction and make our confessions quarterly. Many of us also rely on therapy or coaching. We invite others to come in to teach us on a topic or guide our annual retreat. We invite advisory groups to help us with financial and other management. While we worked with an organizational consultant twenty years ago, it is a new thing to be listened to as a community by Jay this year.
Listening is one of the most important gifts we can give to ourselves and to others. Those of us who are primary caregivers to others especially need a loving, listening presence in our lives. Good listeners help me by attentively listening to my story with its emotional surprises and seeming contradictions. They can suggest connections between pieces and help synthesize what to me are only scattered thoughts and feelings.
Have you ever asked someone else to listen to your story, or the stories of a group to which you belong? It doesn’t necessarily need to be a professional. How has an outside person listening in been helpful? Perhaps they asked questions that prompted new discoveries. Perhaps they reflected back themes or patterns in what they heard or observed. What has been most meaningful?
What would be a new realm for you? For us, it was inviting Jay to listen to us as a group. He wasn’t coming to teach or advise us on a particular topic, but rather to listen and help us engage what we chose. What would be helpful for you in this season? How might another’s listening presence and perspective assist you or a group of which you are a part?