- 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
About the Author
- The Sacred Art of Listening
- The Power of Listening
- The Transforming Nature of Listening
- The Lost Art of Listening
- Is Anybody Listening?
- The Importance of Listening for Health Care Professionals
Read an Excerpt
The Sacred Art of Listening
FORTY REFLECTIONS FOR CULTIVATING A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE
By Kay Lindahl
SKYLIGHT PATHS PUBLISHING Your Invitation
Copyright © 2002 Kay Lindahl.
All rights reserved.
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 attentionbeing 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 babya 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 knowyes, 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 dieand 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 rolebut 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 timeto 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.