In the course of my routine life I spend quite a bit of time in small group conversation. Generally the goal of these groups is to nurture and encourage the flourishing of spiritual life and practice.
There are certain attitudes and commitments that give these sacred conversations a better chance of reaching their goal.
Here are my 10 Commitments For Sacred Conversation:
1. I will honour the goal of this group to create an environment which supports each person and the group in opening to a deeper awareness of the sacred.
The goal of any spiritually oriented discussion group is deeper awareness of connection to Divine Presence. We gather in order that our lives may open more fully to the image and likeness of the divine in which we were created and that we may share in the process of manifesting this reality for the good of all creation.
2. I am not here to discuss intellectual ideas or debate academic concepts.
Debating ideas and academic concepts has its place. The problem with merely academic conceptual discussion is that it can keep us locked in our mental faculties. Our intellectual capacity alone is not adequate to facilitate the process of fuller awareness. We need to bring more of ourselves to the table in order to facilitate the heart-softening that is essential to spiritual depth.
3. I am not here to win an argument or make a point.
Competition fosters and is supported by the ego which always aims to win. I only move towards the depth that is my true nature when I let go of my egoic programs for running my life. Group spiritual conversation offers me an opportunity to let go of my need to impress or to win and to engage in the transforming practices of surrender and opening.
4. I will not interrupt or seek to dominate the conversation allowing space to be present around the words that are spoken.
Space is the environment in which life becomes a real possibility. When I remove some of the clutter of my own thinking processes and create space I liberate the power of my true self to engage in conversation. When I only sit on the edge of my chair planning my next response, I am removed from the conversation and inhibit the growth of awareness for myself and the group as a whole.
5. I will listen carefully until whoever is speaking is clearly finished.
Group spiritual exchange offers the possibility to practice the rare art of really listening. Listening carefully and responsively helps open a space (see #4) in which my true self emerges naturally. To listen I must be willing to let go of my need to be seen and heard. I must give up my determination to be right. To truly listen I need to soften and find within myself a place of gentle responsiveness.
6. I will sit comfortably with group silence resisting the urge to fill every space with words.
Silence in a group can be frightening. I worry no one is going to speak. Anxiety crowds the space until someone finally fills the quiet with the noise of their thoughts. But, in spiritual conversation, I am not here to be entertained; I am here to share in the process of life. Silence is the ground out of which deeper consciousness grows.
7. I will only speak when I feel moved to express something that emerges authentically from the deep silence that enables me to speak from my true self.
My words will only be life-giving to the degree that they emerge from an authentic place within my deepest being. My goal in this conversation is to connect with my true self and begin to be able to manifest in the world from a genuine place that is authentic to the person I truly am.
8. I will allow space as needed in my own speaking to enable me to continue speaking from deep inner stillness.
Spiritual conversation will never be rushed, frenetic, or urgent. I am not trying to do something to anyone with my words. I am trying to bring forth in the form of words my deepest inner essence. This is the richest gift I can offer in a group. As I speak from my authentic self, I contribute to the fire of Presence that we seek to kindle in our communion of conversation.
9. I will seek to be sensitive to the energy of the group, recognizing that there is always more going on than the words contain.
Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). To gather in the “name” of Jesus is to gather with the intention of opening to the power of love. When we intend to open to love there is an energy present that is greater than in any one individual. I intend to honour this energy beneath our words.
10. I will respect the fact that every person present has an equally valid contribution to make and will honour each person’s offering.
The book of Genesis says that every human being is created “in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26, 27). Power, wisdom, light, and truth dwell in every human being. We gather to nurture our awareness of that light of the divine in our being. We aim to support one another in opening to truth and in becoming sensitive to the hidden spiritual dimension of all life.
Human exchange is essential to the development of authentic spiritual life. We grow in communion. But not all human interactions encourage the awareness of the essential connectedness of life. If we honour these 10 commitments, our conversations will be more likely to serve as vehicles for a growing awareness of the Divine Presence at the heart of all creation.
Christopher Page is the rector of St. Philip Anglican Church in Oak Bay, and the Archdeacon of Tolmie in the Anglican Diocese of B.C. He writes regularly on his blog: www.inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com
You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE