Here are some reflections on how different forms of open spiritual conversation have had a very sustaining impact people’s lives. We are naming these LivingConversation and suggest that they are an integral part of LSC.
I am fortunate to have just attended a Spirited Exchanges meeting at the Well in Willen, and realise that this is another incarnation of a movement that started in New Zealand and was active in the UK, and which now provides solely a website – www.spiritedexchanges.org.nz – since they experienced their work as a transitional bridge for individuals and for Christianity was complete.
Today in the UK many people are still struggling to find places to articulate their authentic experience within churches, or have left their church and feel isolated. LivingConversation is one way of responding to those individuals’ needs which Living Spirituality Connections could help to promote.
Jenny writes about a group that has met at her flat, involving 5 people with various faith backgrounds.
Spiritual Sharing Group
We meet once every two months. The idea began after several years of having one to one ‘spiritual’ talks with separate friends, who did not know each other. Although I never deliberately set out to hold a group from scratch, it seemed a good reason to gather together, to share a common interest and things would develop from there. The group is developing organically and we feel that 5 members are the maximum number within the time constraint.
We each take it in turns to bring a subject of personal spiritual interest and why we have chosen it, and then go around having the space to react to it in our different ways. It helps if one person “holds” the group to make it feel safe. We feel it is important that no one person “teaches the Truth”, but each person respects others’ beliefs and owns their own personal essence (saying ‘I feel’ etc.)
TOPICS covered, that were brought by different members, have been:
- Introducing ourselves: home, family, job etc
- Where we are now on our Spiritual Journey
- William Blake’s Poem ‘The Poison Tree’
- Gratitude. The best gift I have ever been given.
- Befriending the Dark
- Transition experience
- New Beginnings in Later Life
- Creativity and Chance.
The structure of our meetings is as follows:
12pm – 1pm – We have a ‘catch up’ of what has happened in our life since we last met two months ago.
1pm – 2pm – Lunch, to which we each contribute. Very simple. Conversation is usually continued from the previous ‘catch up’.
2pm – 3pm – We each have the space to share our individual thoughts on the topic that has been agreed upon at the previous meeting. This can then develop into general conversation around what is brought up.
What the group means to its members:
“…as a group we listen well, and care about what we hear. This gives us a freedom to talk about any current anxieties and to share in the interchange of views…I think we share a common attitude of service”
“I love the bonding that occurs and gradually deepens.”
“I am learning to listen to others in a safe place, as we travel together on the spiritual path.”
“The most priceless aspect of the group is its bond. That’s what makes this group so close and caring. ….you feel you’re safe to explore your journey.”
On member who has been housebound comments “They do not walk away or avoid. They do not condemn. They do not give slick answers. If they can help they do. Simply listening reasonably is in itself a major help.”
Elizabeth talks about the way in which LivingConversation happens at Holy Rood House in Thirsk.
“I like the idea of living conversations – they seem to me to be what often goes on in trusting relationships and are not dissimilar to what Luther spoke of as ‘table-talk’. Letty Russel spoke of this in her ‘Household of Freedom’. I find at Holy Rood that ‘living conversation’ is what is happening every day, all day – in the counselling rooms, at the table, on the phone, through email, in the chapel, through the sacraments – and at the most unexpected moments. This to me is about the ‘living Word’ which we all embody. Brian Thorne wrote of the ‘quality of tenderness’ – I think it is this that creates living conversations – to such an extent that these conversations may become divine presence.”
Linda talks about two instances of one-to-one LivingConversation
“When I heard other members of the LSC Steering Group talk about the nature of Living Conversations I began to realise that I enjoy this type of conversation in a number of settings, although I would not have named them as such.
I have a friend who has paralleled my spiritual path for many years. We tend to get together perhaps twice a year. Something triggers us both to seek each other’s company at about the same time. We meet in very secular places and enjoy a coffee and a catch up together. But the nature of that catch up reflects the fact that we have become anam caras – soul friends. We talk of our joys and concerns, our hopes and fears, the challenges and places where we are at rest. We are constantly amazed that similar issues are playing themselves out in each of our lives. We feel nourished by the exchange and set off into our separate lives to get on with things…
Another friend and I meet regularly and agree that the nature of the conversations we enjoy don’t happen with anyone else in our church. We can talk about anything and always turn our exchanges towards the living out of our faith. We sometimes touch on doubts and difficulties; we share thoughts and ideas, new books and days away we have attended. We are gentle with each other and I enjoy knowing she is around. We share that which is important to us, again gently, and trust what we bring in the shape of contemplative prayer time, is helpful to others.
Looking at these two examples of what might be called LivingConversations, it occurs to me that they are about deep friendship, sharing, exchanging and listening.”
Heather-Jane, who runs the peace-making organisation Spirit of Peace, will be running a workshop on how to hold soul conversations in November at Ammerdown near Bath. There is much in common with the idea of LivingConversation.
Most conversations are enjoyable social meetings but some conversations carry us to a deeper, more numinous place. We call these deep, transforming conversations “soul conversations”. They involve a process of deep listening, awareness and openness, together with a sense of being guided by the questions rather than the solutions. As well as deepening personal connections, these conversations can become a powerful tool for personal and social transformation and healing.
Is it possible to consciously learn how to have Soul Conversations? The answer is a resounding Yes! There are in fact many methods for this form of conversation, some of which have been developed and used to bring about resolution in situations of conflict.
“Human conversation is the most ancient and easiest way to cultivate the conditions for change.” (Margaret J Wheatley).
Soul Talk – 21-23 November 2014.