Kay Lindahl is founder of The Alliance for Spiritual Community, a grassroots interfaith organization designed to promote mutual understanding and respect among people of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. She has also developed the Listening Center in California with workshops, retreats, and classes to experience the value and importance of deep listening. The 40 thoughts and practices here, along with circle illustrations by Amy Schnapper, aim to encourage the art of sacred listening.
Lindahl alludes to research studies by the International Listening Association which report that we spend about 45 percent of our time listening, but we are distracted, preoccupied, or forgetful about 75 percent of that time. The average attention span for adults is about 22 seconds. Immediately after listening to someone talk, we usually recall only about half of what we heard. Within a few hours we remember about 20 percent of what we've heard. Less than five percent of us have had any training in listening skills.
Lindahl is convinced that silence, presence, and openness are three ways of nurturing the art of sacred listening. The first slows us down and gives us room to ponder, the second enables us to connect with others via our hearts, and the third encourages agenda-free conversations. The author points out that rituals such as lighting a candle when having an intimate talk with a loved one can heighten the exchange.[p>
Lindahl salutes reflective listening where we attune ourselves to important questions rather than focusing on answers or outcomes. She closes with nine guidelines for listening to others, which include suspending assumptions, listening for understanding, not to agree with or believe, asking clarifying or open-ended questions, and honoring silence and time for reflection. The Sacred Art of Listening offers a rich and multidimensional understanding of this important spiritual practice.