Practicing the Sacred Art of Listening
by Kay Lindahl
a review by John Gilbert
Practicing the Sacred Art of Listening by Kay Lindahl (ISBN 1-893361-85-3) is published by Skylight Paths Publishing and available at $16.95 from your local bookseller or through the publisher. This is a companion book to The Sacred Art of Listening by the same author and publisher.
The subtitle of this book is A Guide to Enrich Your Relationships and Kindle Your Spiritual Life. That fairly well sums up the author's opinion of the importance of truly listening to another human being. On the inside cover of the book it says: The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. This sums up the purpose of this book.
Practicing the Sacred Art of Listening is intended to help the reader deepen his or her relationships, improve communication with others, and help develop her or his skills as a conversationalist. These intentions are built on the assumption the reader has already read The Sacred Art of Listening and has a good idea about how to listen effectively, lovingly and engagingly. This being the case, this sequel will assist the reader in taking these skills to another level.
I'm particularly drawn to two chapters discussing Contemplative Listening and Heart Listening. These two short chapters speak to who I am as a person and to the person I want to become. This is powerful stuff.
As an avowed contemplative with many years practice, it may surprise you that I learned a great deal about myself while reading and contemplating this chapter. I also learned how to empower myself by applying contemplative techniques to my listening. Isn't that interesting! A non-contemplative teaches a contemplative how to apply contemplative techniques to listening and it works!
As a priest I was taught to go against my more natural mental nature and listen with my heart. This gave me many insights into other people which I neglected in our conversations. Ms. Lindahl explains that listening with the heart involves not only listening but being fully present with the speaker. After trying a couple of the suggested exercises I came to the conclusion I had previously been listening with my heart and withdrawing into myself instead of truly listening.
The real power in this book is in the suggested exercises. By just employing one technique a day I believe my interpersonal skills are improving greatly. I speak less, listen more and spend more time talking about the things brought up by the people around me. As this happens, I see a difference in the way these same people interact with me. I like that and I recommend practicing these techniques to anybody who wants to improve themselves. This is more than just a self-improvement course, it's a spiritual course on improving our relationships and empowering the people in our lives.