From the third century CE, many people went out to seek the wisdom of the early monastic communities in the deserts of the Middle East.
These “Desert Mothers and Fathers” were hermits, ascetics, nuns and monks who renounced the pagan lifestyle in the cities and escaped to the deserts to pursue simple, monastic living. (I suppose within all of us lies a desire to flee from the ‘busyness’ of life to seek solitude, quiet and peace somewhere?)
One way the Desert Mothers and Fathers ministered to the people who sought their wisdom was what developed into the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation (perhaps more commonly and infamously known as ‘Confession’).
Yet, these first nuns and monks did not give a “penance” or punishment to the people who sought them out.
Instead, they just listened.
They simply listened to all of the problems, worries, fears, anxieties and desires of the people. Often, the only advice they would give would be a short piece of scripture or mantra for the seeker to go away and meditate on.
When we seek out help, we want answers and advice that we hope will immediately solve all of our problems. We want to be told what to do. This takes the responsibility away from ourselves – who need to do the hard work on the self.
When others come to you for advice, what do you tell them? Have you ever tried Just Listening? What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?