If it weren’t for story, it would be hard to express myself.
Even with a love for narrative, it’s difficult at times to find the words to express what is percolating inside. Eventually a lip print gets left on the mug as one thought after another sips out.
The other side of the coffee mug is that it can be just as difficult to simply listen attentively while someone else slowly spoons through the thoughts stirring in their own story.
In both cases the need is the same:
Learning the art of being present – to one’s own heart and to the heart of another, for that is where our story is written, found and re-found, from where it is told and where it is truly heard.
Being present, not just in body but also in listening, is one of the greatest gifts
we can receive as well as give to someone else.
Nothing says ‘I care about you’ (whether listening to your own story or someone else’s) like a mocha mustache and a need to reheat your cooled-down coffee.
Throughout the year I offer opportunities for listening to and discovering one’s own story in the context of Listen To My Life intro sessions, workshops and individual or duo life mapping sessions. 
In a recent workshop where eight women recorded the early years of their life on the My Life Story visual map, they partnered after in a sharing / listening exercise.
As the duos returned to their seats around the group table, I posed two questions:
What was it like to be listened to? What was it like to listen?
Here are their answers I jotted down as we went around the group:
What was it like to be listened to?
- A gift
- They were attentive
- Empathetic listener
- No questions were asked; no interruptions
- No judgment, just listened
- Being listened to helped my scattered thoughts find order
- Arrived at the workshop with apprehension of not knowing what to expect; that melted away as I shared parts of my story with the one listening
What was it like to listen?
- Difficult to not ask questions!
- Found it hard to be truly present at first
- Ended up loving being a listener
- Found that details weren’t necessary
- It was nice to be attentive without asking questions
- Fascinating to listen to someone’s story
- Clear and concise sharing
- As they shared, heard how they have within them answers as well
- Amazed at the parallels within our own duo’s two stories!
The privilege of facilitating others’ passage through a variety of ways to listen to their life never ceases to touch my own heart as the Lord meets theirs…right where they are. It is the gift of being present.
There are times that the art of being present may be practiced with thee, thou self, and thine coffee.
Then there are other times that the King James approach just doesn’t cutteth it.
Those are the times I love to gather a group of two or ten or in between for the benefit of practicing the art of being present. As ones respond to the invitation they often experience something new of grace.
Many have not known what it is to be listened to in order to be heard without question or judgment.
Still others have kept silent, rarely giving voice to the story within longing to be told.
Some have talked too long and loud to become a gift-giver in the art of being present to someone else.
I have had to learn and practice becoming skilled at both sharing and listening. It is not just one or the other to which we are called as we participate in relating with one another.
It’s learning to be the sharer and being present to the shared. Learning to be the listener and listened to.
It is the act of creating “a space of grace” – where hearts are held with care and prayer.
And another mug of mocha if need be.
– from the Archives  For more information about the benefits of exploring your own life story and how it fits in the grand history of God’s Story, you may contact me here.  Sharon Swing, co-author with Sibyl Towner of the Listen To My Life experience
Photo Credit: Coffee Break at Cento via photopin (license)
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain – silver spoon
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