During Fall Break I decided to visit Penuel Ridge Retreat to do some writing. Penuel stands for ‘wresting with God’. On its 300 acre property was a Prayer Labyrinth. Ironically, one of my projects was to study and write on the topic of listening. After walking the Prayer Labyrinth and studying its 3,500 year history, I received a deeper understanding of the importance of listening. Listening is not only a Spiritual Discipline I must cultivate for myself, but a Spiritual Act, when extended to others.
In Greek mythology, the artisan Daedalus built a Labyrinth for King Minos in the palace of Knossos on Crete, to help capture the monster Minotaur. King Minos also used the Labyrinth to house prisoners, since there was so way of escape. It was said to have been so complex that Daedalus himself could barely find his way out.
The English word for Labyrinth is maze. The definition being: “a complex branching multicursal puzzle with choices of paths and directions”. More than likely you have been in, or heard of, a modern day labyrinth, in the form of the modern corn maze which becomes popular during the Halloween season. The Labyrinth has been in existence for more than 3,500 years and has been discovered throughout history on coins, pottery, body tattoos, and a popular design painted on walls, floors or in hedge cut lawns.
The Church converted tradition of the Labyrinth into a ‘Prayer Labyrinth’ that can be found throughout the world. Rather than a multicursal Labyrinth, consisting of complex passages, in which one could be turned around and lost, the Prayer Labyrinth is designed as a unicursal; or a single path. The design is for ease of passage and it is impossible to get lost. The ‘Prayer Labyrinth’ is a place for prayer, meditation and transformation. Its purpose is to help the seeker slowly untangle the mind and heart, so that the voice of God can be heard, thus discovering peace and purpose in life.
The reason I am giving a history of the Labyrinth is because it symbolizes the confusion and pain in life that can cloud and encircle the mind. It is possible to feel just as trapped in our own mind as the prisoners sentenced to the Labyrinth in Crete. It takes a consistent and significant amount of time of silent contemplation for us to untangle and sift through our own impending decisions, and the opinions of others, before we can hear our own inner voice and the voice of God.
The mind is already very complex. When you add childhood trauma to the developing brain, it renders simple decision making and daily tasks nearly impossible, due to resulting underdeveloped cognitive and social skills. We, as professionals and parents, have been trained to cordially and patiently listen to our student/child/client in order to assess the problem and give the feedback needed for the child to thrive in their culture. It is my opinion that the very act of listening itself contains the healing properties needed to help a child heal, and cultivate hope. Listening is nothing short of a spiritual act that contains the healing properties needed to help “listen someone into existence” –Mary Rose O’Reilley.
Listening is a Spiritual Discipline because it must be cultivated in order for us to hear and understand our own mind and heart. Therefore, that is why I believe Listening is a Spiritual Act when extended to others.
In conclusion, when we believe that listening is a spiritual act that contains the properties needed to bring about healing, it changes our disposition. It allows us to remain relaxed and connected to the person speaking. Listening provides the love and support one needs to feel free to talk through their issues and filter through personal pain. When the person speaking realizes that we are truly listening, it will also provide the emotional leverage we desire in order to speak into their lives. It will make our voices more valuable, respected and sought after.
For a video presentation of this blog please visit “Steven Seaton” Youtube channel.