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I'm at the blunt of a thirty-odd year career as a writer and editor, so I've worked with words and story all my life. Some years ago I trained and was ordained as an Interfaith Minister and spiritual counsellor, a most fruitful and searing experience. Around the same time I also underwent a Men's Rites of Passage event/training/experience, which was more searing still, and left me with an abiding interest in how we men, in particular, are so vested in holding everything together that we aren't even aware of our own inner voice. (I remember distinctly on one occasion being asked how I was feeling about an issue that arose, to which I replied that I wasn't sure I understood the question.) I know that many women have similar stories.

In fact, we all have stories. Several, usually. The ones we tell other people, and the ones we keep to ourselves.

But not many of us have experienced a safe, quiet and absolutely confidential space to begin to tell our untold story to a deep, attentive and non-judgmental listener. I remember vividly the first time it happened to me - deep listening without any need to comment. It doesn't matter what it's about, or when it happened, or how bad you think it is. Healing starts with storytelling, and storylistening, having your story heard and witnessed.

And of course there are always the questions.... Who am I? Why am I here? Where does it hurt? Where is the divine in all this? What should I do? How do I know which religion is true, or if any religion is true? Is there some point to all this? What shall I do with the lack of meaning?

The most important thing is deep, reflective listening, listening to the sound of your own soul, the sound of your own inner voice, the one that gets drowned out most of the time. The one that people are too busy to listen to.

You can use creative writing exercises to begin to tap into the heart of who you are and what you want to say. Letters to yourself, to other people, loved or not, to parents, children (born or unborn),people you have lost, to whomever you think G-d might be. Poems, stories and life writing can be just as effective in uncovering aspects of ourselves that we don't engage with, or perhaps have never truly met. Journalling is a great place to start. Or any creative activity that’s undertaken as primarily the externalising of something internal, rather than the desire to impress or succeed. Picasso once said that painting was just another way of keeping a diary.

With luck and good intentions, this kind of listening, witnessing and space-sharing can develop into a sacred conversation.

Having a witness who has no agenda, who will listen to you without judgment or trying to fix you is one of life's most rewarding experiences, in my opinion. I'm deeply grateful to the people who have done this for me, so I offer it to anyone who would like some company on the great mysterious journey that we are all on. And nowadays we don’t have to be face to face: we can use Skype, Google hangouts, or other shared online spaces.

Please take a look round. There are lots of ways to begin a sacred conversation. I hope you enjoy what you find.


Peter Neary-Chaplin

Southsea, UK.

October 2019