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

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

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

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

by Kay Lindahl


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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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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594734168
Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
Publication date: 03/06/2012
Series: The Art of Spiritual Living
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 671,856
File size: 5 MB

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

The Sacred Art of Listening


By Kay Lindahl


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.

Table of Contents

Part One: The Beginning

Your Invitation 3
The Circle of Life 6

Part Two: 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 Three: 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

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