GUIDELINES FOR INTERSPIRITUAL DISCUSSION AND MENTORING

The primary language of InterSpiritual dialog and mentoring is shared silence. It is the soothing elixir that places each person and each tradition on neutral, reciprocal ground. In silence we are liberated from our fixed religious or non-religious identities and the words that distinguish one truth from another. We celebrate and welcome the diversity of our respective spiritual styles, traditions, racial, gender, and ethnic diversity. Separately and jointly we experience a wordless quality or essence of being that unites us.

When I am liberated by silence, when I am no longer involved in
the measurement of life, but in the living of it, I can discover a
form of prayer in which there is effectively no distraction.
— Thomas Merton

When we enter into conversation with each other it is important that we maintain this same gentle and kind quality of being. Openness implies vulnerability, therefore we must take great care with our intentions and our words. Opening up to and with each other is rare and delicate occurrence. Therefore we take great care not to cause another person’s shy inner self to recede back into the shadows of his or her consciousness. We create a safe and supportive container within which this contemplative process can unfold.
Here is a set of guidelines I have compiled to help us help each other. It is based on fifteen years of work with contemplative teachers from many traditions with the Spiritual Paths Foundation.

• Embrace silence as a common language and the elixir of shared experience.
• Don’t feel compelled to teach.  In this process we are not guides or gurus but friends.
• Cultivate the art of the question rather than the urge to provide answers.
• Our job is to help others to discover, honor and harness their spiritual styles and questions for their personal spiritual and contemplative practices.
• Genuinely celebrate and honor the diversity of all spiritual traditions.
• Soften the personal boundaries of fixed identity of your own religion and belief system and open your heart for sincere sharing and learning from the experiences of others..
• Expand your exclusive identity to one that is inclusive and universal.
• Do not respond to a statement by another person with disagreement, agreement, or affirmation. Simply listen compassionately, allowing the statement of another to rest in contemplative reflection and silence.
• Refrain from imposing or projecting your personal views on others’ traditions, beliefs, or practices on others.
• Do not try to speak for another person’s spiritual tradition or practice.
• Refrain from imposing a single universal truth on all religions and spiritual traditions that might not be shared by the traditions themselves or the person with whom you are working.
• If you belong to a specific tradition, speak “from” it rather than “for” it.
• Be careful not to misappropriate, or lift out of context, a specific practice from one tradition and graft it onto another tradition or your practice without knowing its indigenous meaning.
• Engage in compassionate listening to elicit the experience and wisdom within each individual.