Spiritual Conversation: Creating Safe Spaces to Share Our Stories

“Spiritual conversation presupposes attentive listening to oneself and to others. It is a listening to the Spirit who speaks to us in the experience of sharing, opening us to a new look at reality, the fruit of this sharing.” – Father General Sosa

In a day and age where we spend hours on our devices, it’s easy to not only lose track of time but also get buried by information-overload. It’s not long before what we thought we saw clearly becomes blurry, and what we thought we heard clearly becomes muffled. We rush to respond to messages and emails only to find out later that we misinterpreted the whole thing. Misunderstandings become arguments which grow into fights which is clearly evident in the increasingly fractured world that we live in. How can we “journey with the youth” or “walk with the excluded” when we cannot even hear each other clearly? – One pathway that leads to clarity is Spiritual Conversation.

In doing the complicated work of reconciliation through diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, I have spent a lot of time researching and implementing the power of story, specifically, the power of our personal narratives and using them as vehicles of social justice. Living in a fractured world, I have found that whenever there is conflict, more often than not, people are not yelling just about an issue; they are yelling because they do not feel heard. Opening the door to hear each other’s stories drives listeners to empathy that leads to tangible actions promoting equity and change. I’m talking about ACTIVE LISTENING which requires intentionality, turning off that voice in our heads while the other is speaking.

Spiritual Conversation is a simple yet powerful way to do just that. I have been using it in the theology courses I teach as well as with my colleagues.

The formula is easy:

1) Personal reflection in prayer on a given prompt(s).
2) Each person in a small group shares something from their reflection while everyone else LISTENS. No interruptions; no questions. Just listens.
3) Personal reflection in prayer on what they heard.
4) Another sharing by each person in the group while the others LISTEN.
5) Prayer and discernment on where one thinks the Spirit is leading them from what was shared. 6) Come back together as an entire class to discuss.

I have found that by using this format and tool, what would have taken me 45+ minutes to lecture becomes organically learned from students sharing their stories with each other. I’m amazed at the trust they extend to each other through these listening sessions. The key is in the prompts that they must reflect on. Craft them carefully and allow the Spirit to do the rest.

Included is a Powerpoint presentation that I used to teach my students on the issue of “exclusion” as our Justice Summit this year is on UAP #2: Walking with the Excluded.