The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice

Overview

Hearing and listening are two different things.
Learning to listen—really listen—requires sacred practice.

The Sacred Art of Listening guides you through forty practices of deep listening—to our Source, to ourselves, and to each other.

Inspiring text and contemplative artwork combine to communicate the three essential qualities of deep ...

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The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice

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Overview

Hearing and listening are two different things.
Learning to listen—really listen—requires sacred practice.

The Sacred Art of Listening guides you through forty practices of deep listening—to our Source, to ourselves, and to each other.

Inspiring text and contemplative artwork combine to communicate the three essential qualities of deep listening—silence, reflection, and presence. They demonstrate that the key to healthy relationships and spiritual transformation can be as basic as practicing the art of listening.

You will learn how to:

  • Speak clearly from the heart
  • Communicate with courage and compassion
  • Heighten your awareness and sensitivity to opportunities for deep listening
  • Enhance your ability to listen to people with different belief systems
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Surely one test of belief is its application in everyday life. Restoring the sacred to the daily art of communication is an oft-overlooked avenue of practice, but one that finds its voice in this slender, substantive volume. Lindahl, the founder of the Listening Center in Laguna Niguel, Calif., summons us back to "the possibility of Listening as a key to peace in the world." For her, "listening is far more than hearing words"; it is a sacred art that requires reflection, illustration, meditation and practice. These 40 meditations are exercises in mindfulness that entreat us to slow down and practice silence, contemplation and presence with ourselves, others and God. The brief passages can be read superficially with little gain, but quieted learners can find gems among them about commitment, humility and favoring integration over balance, to name a few of the themes. Hand-drawn ink mandalas by Amy Schnapper complement each passage and should prove helpful to practitioners who might need a visual anchor while contemplating Lindahl's various themes. The meditation that is prescribed here feels Eastern, but the volume will be of great use to many types of readers, regardless of beliefs. The closing section, "Principles of Dialogue" (nine guidelines on listening to other people), crystallizes the tenets lovingly explored in the previous pages. The book is not large in size, but it is potentially powerful in application. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Lindahl is the founder of the nondenominational and omnifaith Listening Center, an institute dedicated to the skill of listening to others, and this book is a reflection of her work there. Her gentle conclusions and recommendations, including such notions as "suspend status" and "honor silence," are desirable in many circumstances, and Lindahl skillfully gives them a religious overtone; her work is ably supported by Schnapper's mandala-like illustrations. For most collections. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781893361447
  • Publisher: Skylight Paths Publishing
  • Publication date: 12/1/2001
  • Series: Art of Spiritual Living Series
  • Edition description: 1ST SKYLIG
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 320,973
  • Product dimensions: 7.97 (w) x 8.06 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Kay Lindahl, the founder of The Listening Center in Long Beach, California, is author of How Does God Listen?; Practicing the Sacred Art of Listening: A Guide to Enrich Your Relationships and Kindle Your Spiritual Life; and The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice. She is co-editor of Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership: Where Grace Meets Power.

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Read an Excerpt

The Sacred Art of Listening

FORTY REFLECTIONS FOR CULTIVATING A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE


By Kay Lindahl

SKYLIGHT PATHS PUBLISHING

Copyright © 2002 Kay Lindahl.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 1-893361-44-6


Your Invitation

My own first experiences with deep listening came about through the Alliance for Spiritual Community, a grassroots interfaith organization that I founded to promote mutual understanding and respect among people of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. I learned that the key to reaching these goals was to create a space where we could practice the art of dialogue. After almost a decade of facilitating dialogue groups, I realized that the art of listening was the main skill that was missing for most participants. From that very real need I developed The Listening Center in California five years ago, at a time in my life when the connection between listening and the circle of life became clear to me in all its sacredness.

The Listening Center creates a place where people learn the sacred art that is listening. We lead workshops, retreats, and classes around the world in our efforts to provide men and women with an experience of the value and importance of deep listening. Each person becomes a center for listening in his or her life. Deep listening cultivates a spiritual practice. This book engages you in this process.

You are invited to use The Sacred Art of Listening to create more peace, harmony, and love in your life and in the world. The pace of life today leaveslittle room for reflection and listening. The promise of this book is that you can learn to listen from the essence of your being by taking a few minutes a day for quiet time with your authentic self.

The thoughts and practices that follow are designed to expand your awareness and broaden your concept of listening. You will notice that listening as a sacred art calls forth your being in new ways. One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is the gift of our undivided attention—being present. It takes time to slow down the conversation, to include silence and reflection as well as speaking and listening.

To receive the most benefit from these teachings, I recommend using the guidelines below. They will help provide a format for you to establish a routine as you read each of the forty short chapters:

• Settle down in a quiet space.

• Slowly read one reflection.

• Gaze at the circle illustration for that reflection for a few minutes.

• Allow your mind to consider what you see and read from different perspectives.

• Notice where your heart leads you.

• Stay in the silence for a few minutes.

• Create a specific intention for improving your listening practice.

• Express gratitude for your experience.

The circle illustrations that Amy Schnapper created for The Sacred Art of Listening are designed to help you see the deep wisdom that lies within your own heart. There is no right or wrong way to look at the art. Rather, it is intended to engage you visually while you look into your own heart. Allow the art, the words, and the teaching to move slowly into your heart while you discover levels of spirit and connection you may have never accessed before.

These reflections will introduce you to listening beyond words. The subtitle for each reflection is the practice at work. Each provides you with an opportunity to think about listening in a new way. Notice the many layers of deep listening. For example, the title of the first reflection is "Qualities of Deep Listening." The subtitle, or practice, is "Listening for essence." The desired result of this practice is to make time each day to reflect on what it is to listen for essence and to practice doing it. You will soon experience that listening is far more than hearing words.

Listening as a sacred art encompasses reflection, illustration, meditation, and practice. Observe which practices in these forty reflections speak the most directly to you. Take on some of those practices. Incorporate them into your daily life. Journal your experiences in the pages at the back of this book. Be prepared for miracles.

My prayer is that just a few minutes meditating with each reflection will lead you to a deeper relationship with your Source, with your soul, and with others.

The Circle of Life

The origin of The Sacred Art of Listening came out of a series of connected personal experiences. About five years ago, I was jolted into looking carefully at the choices I make about how I live my life. That year, on the third of May, my elder son and his wife had their first baby—a boy. What a joy it was to welcome Ryan into our family! While we were still in the glow of celebrating this new life, my mother was completing her life journey. We had a big party for her ninetieth birthday, two weeks before Ryan's birth. The gathering had been a joyous time, sharing memories of what life had been like for her, coming to this country as a young teenager. As we were all about to leave, she stood up and said, "There is something I would like to say." This was highly unusual. Not one to make speeches, she had always left that to my dad.

We all stopped and sat down to listen. Mother said, "I want to thank you all for coming. It's been a lovely party and I'll see you on the other side." We were stunned. Did she realize what she was saying, we wondered. And now we know—yes, she did. Ten days later she was admitted to the hospital, and she died on May 11. Her great-grandson Ryan was just eight days old.

Mother had become restless after a few days in the hospital. One day, she looked as though she wanted to get out of bed. "What do you want, Mom?" I asked.

"I need to get to the door," she said.

"What door?" I asked.

"The one over there." She pointed over my shoulder at a blank wall. I was puzzled; she finally said, "This isn't making any sense, is it?"

"Not a whole lot," I replied. "But you know, I think it will make all the sense in the world when you see what's on the other side of that door."

The cycle of life had never been more present for me. It's one thing to know that as human beings we are born, we live for a time, and then we die—and it's another to personally experience the beginning and end of life's cycle at virtually the same moment. The synchronicity of these birth and death events caused me to reflect deeply about my own life.

How often do we find ourselves saying, "Where has the time gone? My, how time flies. The older I get, the less time I seem to have. How quickly the days (weeks, months, years) pass by." Suddenly, this notion of time took on a whole new dimension for me. I began to see time not as a straight line from birth to death hut as a circle in which we each have a role—but just for a moment. None of us knows how much time we have to live this life, or what part of the circle we are about to experience. But to be fully alive is to be present to life each moment. Like many people, I all too easily get caught living life in the past, the "I should haves"—or in the future, the "someday I wills." And yet the only time we actually have, the only time we really experience, is the present.

The birth of my grandson and the death of my mother within days of each other made me aware of the value of simply being present. I spent a lot of time being with my mother in her final days. We didn't say much. Yet something wonderful happened in those moments. I wasn't thinking about the past or the future, only about the experience of "now" and how precious life was in those moments.

The reflections in this book all relate to time—to being present. They also relate to the circle of life in the context of the sacred art of listening. They are reflections from my journey and experiences I have had as I flow along the circle of life. They express my intention to listen deeply and completely, and to be fully present in the world around me. I hope they serve you in your journey.

We must learn to listen if there is to be peace in the world, particularly among religious traditions. Affirming the sacred art of listening is my response to this call for peace. Learning how to listen to and speak with each other are essential skills for creating relationships that lead to mutual respect, dialogue, understanding, and peace. As I explore a spiritual approach to listening, my understanding of what it actually means to listen continues to expand. Listening encompasses much more than words. Listening is a way of being in the world. These reflections speak from that voice.


Excerpted from The Sacred Art of Listening by Kay Lindahl. Copyright © 2002 by Kay Lindahl. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Part 1 The Beginning
Your Invitation 3
The Circle of Life 6
Part 2 Practicing the Sacred Art of Listening
1. Qualities of Deep Listening: Listening for essence 11
2. A Sacred Art: Listening as spiritual awareness 14
3. Using Silence: Listening to access your stillpoint 17
4. Learning from Experience: Listening for new possibilities 20
5. Communion: Listening to communicate 23
6. Rituals: Listening for meaning 26
7. Dialogue or Discussion: Listening for context 29
8. Seeking Common Ground: Listening to appreciate 32
9. Common Values: Listening for connection 35
10. Presence: Listening from your heart 38
11. Conversations of the Heart: Listening for soul 41
12. Creating Safe Spaces: Listening with love 44
13. Self-Expression: Listening with humility 47
14. Practicing Peace: Listening to understand 50
15. Creating Harmony: Listening for integration 53
16. Delving Deeper: Listening for insight 56
17. Simple Sharing: Listening for experiences 59
18. Love in Action: Listening as caring 62
19. Hearing Nuances: Listening for each voice 65
20. Slowing Down: Listening to reflect 68
21. The Voice Within: Listening for change 71
22. Assumptions: Listening for clarity 74
23. Learning from Passion: Listening for vision 77
24. Contemplative Prayer: Listening for guidance 80
25. The Agenda-free Conversation: Listening with openness 83
26. Cultural Differences: Listening without prejudice 86
27. Attention: Listening for perspective 89
28. Hospitality: Listening as a gift 92
29. Focus: Listening for the holy 95
30. Engage First: Listening beyond appearances 98
31. The Challenge of Change: Listening creatively 101
32. Relationships: Listening for deeper connections 104
33. The Gift of Solitude: Listening to the silence 107
34. Practicing Reflection: Listening for the questions 110
35. A Sacred Meeting Place: Listening through prayer 113
36. Recognizing Intolerance: Listening for your humanity 116
37. Patience: Listening with intention 119
38. Harvest Time: Listening with gratitude 122
39. Being Yourself: Listening with authenticity 125
40. Being Complete: Listening beyond the past 128
Part 3 In Closing
Listening in Your World 133
Principles of Dialogue 134
How This Book Was Created 136
How the Art Was Created 137
Acknowledgments 138
Source Notes 140
Journal Pages 141
About SkyLight Paths 143
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2006

    'Seek first to understand and then to be understood'

    Profound stuff here! Most of us are born with the gift to hear. However, how many of us properly apply the skill of listening? I don¿t know about you but, I didn¿t learn this stuff in school. At least not to the degree explored in this book. And I do feel that the book¿s contents are critical on many levels. Every aspect of our lives can be enhanced by improving this one skill. Let¿s talk reality here. In conversations with others, we formulate speculations and opinions on what they are saying before they even finish saying it sometimes finishing their sentences for them. Many times we are so busy trying to think of our refined reply (to make sure we look good or sound intelligent) that we really didn¿t comprehend what the other person was saying. Does any of this sound familiar? I know I have been guilty! This book reminded me of a great quote by one of my mentors Stephen R. Covey, ¿Seek first to understand and then to be understood.¿ Another key point that I wanted to share is that we live in such an information-crazed society where we simply cannot get enough information. Rarely do we slow down enough to smell the roses and reflect on what we just heard, or read, or saw... whatever the information vehicle. We just steamroll passed and look to gather more information. This book was a bit of a rude awakening for me in that it helped me understand that I need to slow down a bit, properly apply the power of listening, and improve my NOW. This is a small book and probably can be read in one sitting, however I highly recommend that you take your time to properly absorb and reflect on each chapter ¿ you¿ll be glad you did!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2004

    What a blessing

    The Sacred Art of Listening has opened up an entire world in my life that I had been ignoring - being quiet & listening. I am so caught up in the rush and 'doing' of life that I am exhausted most of the time. Kay has written a series of stories & reflections about simply listening in your life. I have been missing alot. I make an effort to stop and listen now when I am feeling overwhelmed. I like reading a page before I go to sleep, it helps me to relax.

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