Deep Listening

While I was driving down the Pacific Coast Highway on my way to work today, I was listening to an interview on my favorite Podcast show- On Being, and it dawned on me that there seemed to be this really special pause between when the interviewer spoke and the interviewee responded.   It felt like the interviewee really took the time to listen and respect the interviewers words.  It seemed to me that she was truly showing up in a loving and compassionate way, and allowing space for her partners to speak.

In that moment it occurred to me how difficult it can be to truly listen when someone else is speaking.  We are often so eager to speak our mind our share our thoughts with another, that our minds are elsewhere (usually on what we have to say next).  Or we interrupt because we’re excited to share what we have to say.  Or we are looking at our smart phones and trying to multitask.  We have good intentions and we hear the other person, but in this busy world it’s difficult to not just hear, but to truly show up and listen to each other.

The art of listening creates a special, focused space of love and genuine respect. It is a very spiritual act to offer someone your full attention, to offer a space for deep connection.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist master explains deep listening as:

“Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

So, of course, I brought this up in my Inner Peace group later this morning.  Everyone had really insightful thoughts and feelings to share about it.  

We shared how deep listening leads to deeper, more authentic connection, and how it can be really scary to be truly listened to and be seen.  That our fears of being seen or judged often get in the way of showing up for another person.  Sometimes it’s so much easier to connect on a surface level instead of opening up to let ourselves be seen.  

We discussed how it can be way easier to zone out, or be in our own heads, or pick up our cell phones instead of connecting…And sometimes we simply don’t have the skills to focus and listen to what the other is saying, we are still learning how to be good communicators and friends.

True intimate connection is an energetic feeling, a spiritual thread, binding two people together in that moment.  It gives opportunity for profound healing serves as a reminder that you matter and are important.  It is  heart centered and is felt as a deep kindness.  

Deep listening sounds simple, yet it can be really difficult.  That’s why it’s offered as a contemplative practice, as a spiritual practice like meditation or yoga, something that we understand that we won’t necessarily excel at right away but we work at and that process helps us grow.  

Deep listening offers us an opportunity to truly show up for those around us in a deep, genuinely respectful and loving way.

Thanks for listening 🙂


P.S. Here is the Podcast I was listening to: On Being episode with Krista Tippett, Sharon Salzberg & Robert Thurman.