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Friday, October 21, 2016
Practicing the Sacred Art of Listening
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 Practising the Sacred Art of Listening by Kay Lindahl. Wild Goose Publications

Practising the Sacred Art of Listening by Kay Lindahl is a sequel to her first book, The Sacred Art of Listening. It builds on the original and offers exercises and specific practices to enhance her readers' capacity to listen. Lindahl is the founder of the Listeners' Centre, a company that focuses on the practice of listening to God, to each other and to our own inner voices.

The book is divided into ten chapters. The first asks: `What is Listening?'. The next three define its different categories: contemplative, reflective and heart. They finish with a list of practices and relevant quotations such as Solomon ibn Gabirol's: `The beginning of wisdom is silence. The second stage is listening'.

Chapters Five to Nine offer practical suggestions as to how and where to listen more effectively. Lindahl points out that some people feel threatened by the concept of listening and offers suggestions on how to make it feel safe both in groups - the organiser should make him or herself vulnerable - and when practising alone - deep breathing and taking sixty seconds a day to focus on the present moment. The final chapter gives a selection of frequently asked questions followed by clear and practical answers.

Lindahl quotes a teaching research project in which teachers who would normally wait about a second between asking a question and calling on a student for a response tried waiting seven seconds or longer, with the result that children who hardly ever raised their hands in class started to participate and give thoughtful and relevant responses. She also emphasises the importance of only speaking if we have something to say rather than just to hear ourselves talk. She describes how people often listen by filtering the other person's remarks through an imaginary checklist: `That's not right' . `That will never work', `Yes but what about that?' and quotes a joke definition of conversation - `A vocal competition in which the one who is catching his breath is called the listener'.

Lindahl makes an attractive and compelling case for listening. Before beginning it I wondered how it would be possible to write an entire book on the subject, but I found reading it a pleasurable and enlightening process.

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