How Sacred Listening is a Learner Practice

June 29, 20203 min read

As many of you know, when the pandemic struck, we wanted to provide a place of safety, sharing and connection for our Learner community. That desire led to a series of free “Compassionate and Connecting Conversations” several Monday nights a month.

Each session has a theme such as self-care or reimagining your personal or professional futures. People from around the world have joined us, many who have studied or worked with us and many others whom they’ve invited. It’s been a joy to provide these conversations and the feedback has been wonderful and gratifying.

I’d like to share one of the practices we do in each conversation session that participants find particularly enjoyable and even healing; it’s called Sacred Listening. Sacred listening means granting the other person the grace, space, and good will of our “generous” listening. This requires acceptance, respect, empathy, and compassion. This kind of listening is a rare and beautiful gift for the person receiving it and important as a practice to become better listeners and more connected for all of us.

When I first heard the term Sacred Listening, it gave me goosebumps. So few of us have ever had the experience of being fully and whole-heartedly received. Many of you have heard me describe Learner as full acceptance of the humanity and value of the person we’re interacting with, regardless of whether we agree with what they’re saying. We’re listening to the person, not the content. It can be an I-Thou interaction and for many it’s a sacred experience.

If you’ve ever had that experience, you know what I mean. If you have not, you can create it for yourself. Rather than wishing someone would do that for you, I suggest you take the lead and do it for them. It’s so satisfying and connecting to be with others in this way. You can do Sacred Listening in a formal way as we do during our Monday night conversations. Or you can resolve to engage in conversation with someone by bringing your full presence and accepting attention to them. That’s what we mean by “listening with Learner ears.” When we’re listened to from Learner, we tend to relax and expand into the comfort and safety of that experience. By contrast, when we’re listened to from Judger, we tend to contract, feel criticized, unaccepted, unsafe, and even defensive.

Here are some questions you can use to listen with your Learner intention:

  • Who is this person really and what’s important to them?

  • What can I appreciate about them?

  • How can I bring myself to listen with an open mind, without judging, giving advice, interrupting, or commenting on what they’re saying?

  • How can I keep my ears and heart open enough to listen with generosity, curiosity, and caring about what this person thinks, feels, wants, and says?

These times are so challenging and uncertain and we need each other now more than ever, not just at home but everywhere. We need each other in a generous Learner way. Sacred Listening is a simple gift that can mean everything. And there is no greater gift that we can give or receive than the full, attentive, accepting listening of another.

I invite you to join us for our next Monday night Compassionate and Connecting Conversations so you can have the experience of Sacred Listening for yourself.

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2023 Inquiry Institute

2023 Inquiry Institute