Years ago I entered the room for spiritual direction, and my director said, “Listen to this.”  Then, without another word she played

“Inner Voices” by Sweet Honey and the Rock.

Go.  Listen now.  (It will take six minutes.)

Dayenu. Yes. That would have been enough. But I believe we also talked.  And I am not done listening.

Sounding out Wisdom is the inner work of gathering the voices that act with god-like quality in our lives at a round table with Wisdom/Christ as the host.

And then listening.  All these voices are honored.  They each have their say.  They each bring a piece of wisdom.  But no one voice is G-D.  And they need to come to an ever evolving “understanding.”

I remember learning this discipline from Sufi teacher Neil Douglas Klotz in his book about the ninety nine names of Allah.  When I was working on a meditation on the ways we name God, the number ninety-nine came to mind.  And, with the help of Google, I found the ancient Islamic practice of praying the names of God.  Ninety nine of them.  Not one hundred.  That might seem “perfect.”


Klotz invited me to consider how any one name of G-D might find resonance with the voices seeking wisdom within me.

Our humanity evolves and grows as our hearts open to include more and more of the paradoxes we find within us. As our inner circle of self (nafs in Arabic) becomes more inclusive, we also become more compassionate …  (Neil Douglas Klotz, The Sufi Book of Life)

We can best see the nafs (a term consistent with the old Hebrew nephesh and the Aramaic naphsha) as a fluid soul-self, including what modern psychology calls the “subconscious,” but specifically pointing to a community of evolving voices, including plants, animals and other beings. These “basic selves” are here to be transformed, to realize their unity… (Commentary on The Sufi Book of Life)

Currently I am participating in a book study of Henri Nouwen’s, Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life. Nouwen writes,

From the beginning two inner voices have been speaking to me: one saying, “Henri, be sure you make it on your own. Be sure you become an independent person. Be sure I can be proud of you,” and another voice saying, “Henri, whatever you are going to do, even if you don’t do anything very interesting in the eyes of the world, be sure you stay close to the heart of Jesus; be sure you stay close to the love of God.” (97)

At the end of the chapter, here is the invitation:

What inner voices have been part of your life thus far?…Once you have named these different voices, try having a conversation with each of them to help you clarify how these differing expectations affect what you do with your life energies. (111)


“Take care of everyone. Keep things in order. Or everything will fly apart.”


“Go out. Seek beauty. Be. Peace will surround you. Pay attention. There is Something much bigger than you.  You can trust It.”

These are samples of the ancient inner voices that are still having a lively daily dialogue within me. You and yours?


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